'Hugely funny and peopled with a cast of characters I came to love like my own friends, Rush Oh! reminded me why I love reading' Hannah Kent, bestselling author of Burial Rites
Mary Davidson, the eldest daughter of a whaling family in New South Wales,chronicles the particularly difficult season of 1908 - a story that is poignant and hilarious, filled with drama and misadventure.
Mary Davidson has got used to looking after her five siblings whilst catering for her father's boisterous whaling crew. But when John Beck, an itinerant whaleman with a murky past, arrives on the doorstep wanting to join her father, Mary promptly develops an all-consuming crush which upends her world...
Swinging from Mary's hopes and disappointments, both domestic and romantic, to the challenges that beset their tiny whaling operation, Rush Oh! is an enchanting celebration of both Mary's unique voice and an extraordinary episode in Australian history when a family of whalers formed a fond, unique allegiance with a pod of frisky killer whales - led by one named Tom.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
We weren’t sure how we’d feel about a historical novel heavily centred on killer whales and their symbiotic relationship with a whaling community in New South Wales. But Rush Oh! won our hearts, hook, line and sinker. Screenwriter Shirley Barrett (Love Serenade, South Solitary) has a sparkling sense of humour. Her debut’s got action, adventure and romance, as well as an irresistible heroine—big-hearted dreamer Mary Davidson, the eldest daughter of the whaling crew’s captain.
In this debut novel from Australian screenwriter and director Barrett, a fictional daughter of New South Wales historic whaler George "Fearless" Davidson recounts the tumultuous events of 1908. Nineteen-year-old Mary is in charge of caring for her five motherless siblings, but also cooking for the whalers. John Beck, a former Methodist minister, joins Davidson's crew and takes an interest in Mary. It turns out to be a disastrously poor whaling season until one late season catch when "the Killers" cooperative orcas the Aborigines greet as reincarnated ancestors help the men capture a 50-foot whale. Mary, writing 30 years later, pieces events together from what little she observes and the men's reports a device that gives her rip-roaring account a realistic touch. This same distance, however, sucks energy from the more climactic scenes. Digressive sections on rendering whale blubber into oil and Uncle Aleck taking a dip in a rotting carcass to cure rheumatism inevitably "invite comparisons with Mr. Melville that will not be flattering," as Mary herself recognizes; but Barrett isn't trying to be Melville. Instead, this unusual domestic look at whaling life is filled with evocative, briny descriptions, humorous set pieces, and newspaper extracts that come together nicely to create an intimate, wry story of one tumultuous year on the seas.