A lot to think about.
It’s 2003 and Jack Simpson and his donkey, legends of Gallipoli, have returned to Australia where they travel through country Victoria ministering to the social ills of modern Australia: illegal immigration, drug and sexual abuse, family breakdown, mental health, the breakdown of country services.
“Helpmate to the dying, that was the lot I was burdened with and one which (with no false modesty) brought me some measure of fame and a steady supply of good-quality cigarettes in those earlier, far-off days. I still wear the Red Cross armband, now threadbare with age. We brought the bloodied racks of bodies back to the hospital tent, drank what little hospital brandy we could find, then journeyed out into the terrible cacophony again. A man and his donkey. I have a photograph of us somewhere, in my pannier bags I think: me a rough-headed youth smiling a smile that could almost be a grimace, Murphy looking disdainfully for God knows what reason at my foot. That was the Great War, they called it the Great War, and I’m sure it was great for some, but somehow the greatness of it got past Murphy and me and we had to content ourselves with the trivialities of blood and broken limbs.”
“He’s a good animal, I can’t deny it, a little on the mulish side at times, but old enough for me to forgive him his irritating ways.”
“The next morning, with Murphy hobbling like the geriatric ass that he is, we resumed our journey through Deer Park and St Albans – car wrecks, shredded rubbish, in places great crops of plastic tree-protectors stretching out across both banks like tombstones to the fallen – and around the back of Caroline Springs towards Leakes Road north of Rockbank.”~Quotes from the book.
- The Guardian: By placing Simpson in a modern context, Macauley is able to ask questions about who we really are as a nation, about compassion and hypocrisy, and if we have changed at all over the past 100 years.
- Readings: “Macauley’s use of an other-worldly narrative to bring real-world problems into focus is probably one of Simpson Returns’s greatest strengths. The help of a ghostly war hero and donkey, offered to those that we seem to unnecessarily punish or deny help, becomes a fitting analogy for the particularly cruel Australia in which we currently live. Macauley’s novella has the sheen of a comedy, but it should also be given credit for being so uncomfortably sad.”
Author website: Wayne Macauley