Posted by: Lisa Hill | June 19, 2015

The Burial, by Courtney Collins

The Burial

I admit it, I bought this book by mistake.  There was huge hype over a book called Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, and I accidentally bought this one instead, on my Kindle.  (Burial Rites turned out to be a mistake too, but I only borrowed that one from the library so it didn’t bother me to return it abandoned and unread).  But this one, The Burial, lurked on my Kindle until, travelling, I just wanted to read something Australian and so I finally got round to reading it.

I should say, at the outset, that I know many people whose opinion I respect, liked it.  Kim from Reading Matters did and so did Annabel Smith.  There are many 5-star reviews on GoodReads, and it was nominated for the Dobbie award in 2013.   Indubitably, it has a very strong female character (a child circus-performer who becomes a cattle-thief and murders her brutal husband, then outwits all the men she comes across), so it’s no surprise it was nominated for the Stella too.   The story romps along with lively plotting which is ok if you’re in the mood for page-turning and are willing to suspend disbelief here and there.  All that’s ok-ish, it goes with the genre.

And the writing is good.  There are passages that show real writing talent, and the evocation of the Australian bush is just lovely for a homesick traveller.  Collins brings to life the colours, the scents, the sounds, and the eerie beauty of the bush with real style.

But *pained expression*, a dead baby narrator?  Every time I came across this omniscient  narrator talking about its mother, I had to grit my teeth to keep reading.

For a different perspective, see The Newtown Review of Books and Kim’s review.

PS: Kevin from Canada was more forgiving of the narration than me.

Author: Courtney Collins
Title: The Burial
Publisher: Allen and Unwin, 2012
Source: Personal copy, no idea what I paid for it.


  1. Some books grab people and some don’t. I for one enjoyed this book. I read it a couple of years ago, and was really impressed with the dead baby narrator – lol. Though, I do agree some suspension of belief is required, and it is a page turner.


    • Hello Meg, thanks for dropping by:)
      So true, books work in different ways for different people. How dull life would be if it were not so!


  2. I share your unpopular opinion about Burial Rites. It did get better at the end, but not worth it.


    • Thanks, Laura, it’s good to know I am not alone!


      • Defintely not alone – couldn’t finish it!

        Liked by 1 person

        • That’s interesting – did you drop it near the beginning, or nearer the end? Although I probably would have put it aside if I’d been at home and had other choices, I kept on reading, and eventually became interested in the plot. Towards the end I started thinking it was overwrought, but I was interested enough to see how the author was going to end it (though *spoiler alert*) the prologue was an unwisely obvious hint IMO.


  3. I’m with Meg and Kim, but I’m not surprised you didn’t like it. I’m surprised in fact that you’ve now read it! I thought it was an excellent book with a lot to think about. It’s more than a simple page-turner I think. I saw some reminiscences (that’s not quite the word, but my mind is blank) of Toni Morrison’s Beloved (albeit with a very different dead baby) and Cormac McCarthy. To be honest, I think people too quickly dismissed the “dead baby” narrator, but that’s just me, because I enjoy gutsy outback stories, particularly told by women. I should perhaps, in my review, have also referred to Baynton, now I think about it.


    • LOL If you trawl through this blog you’ll find that I’ve persisted with a few books that I really didn’t like because I’ve been travelling and had nothing else to read. I think there’s even a Maeve Binchy though I’m too embarrassed to look…
      I’ve read Beloved, and I thought it was brilliant, but it didn’t come to mind at all when I was reading this one. IMO what a Nobel prize winning author can get away with – no, more than that, succeed brilliantly with – is different. Morrison’s dead baby is all the dead babies of slavery, African-Americans denied their civil rights, symbolic and mythic and intensely powerful as spokesperson for a whole people, past, present and future. IMO this one is just a gimmick, and one that really didn’t work, because most of the time the reader (mercifully) forgets who the narrator is, until it jarringly intrudes again.
      But as I said, each to his own!
      (Anyway, since my father has rallied again *big smile* I hope to be home in my own library soon, spoilt for choice when it comes to books to read!)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hey, don’t diss the Binchy: she’s the author who started me off on the whole Irish literary bent I’ve been on since discovering her in 1989!


        • LOL Kim, I shouldn’t diss Enid Blyton either, she’s the one who started me reading voraciously.
          *chuckle* I visited your blog to count the Binchy reviews but the internet is soooo slow here I couldn’t even get it to load front page properly so I could find the search box. (And we are paying top dollar for it too, over $100 so far, since we arrived 6 days ago).

          Liked by 1 person

          • Well, I’ve only reviewed two and they weren’t typical Binchy fare. I read all her early work long before the blog and remember utterly adoring them.


  4. You’re the first person I’ve come across to say they didn’t like either of these books! Keeps things interesting. I’m likely to cop a brick for admitting that I haven’t even read Burial Rites yet…but I’m waiting for the right moment.
    Sorry to hear you’ve been having family health issues. Sounds like things are looking up, though…:)


    • I reckon I could build a small defensive wall around my house with the bricks I deserve. But hey! it goes with the territory: You can’t be honest in reviews if you don’t ‘fess up about the occasional book you didn’t like. If people follow this blog it’s because they want to know what I think, not what they think I ought to read or would like them to write.
      Thanks for your kind thoughts: it’s strange, on top of everything else, I’m missing my online life. Of course it’s a long way down my list of priorities, but still… I don’t have time to read the blogs I subscribe to, so I feel left out. I’m not reading much, so I feel empty inside. I’m not chatting about books on and off all day so I feel flat and dull. And I feel guilty about neglecting this blog too. So as well as feeling anxious and all the other emotions you’d expect to have at a time like this, I have these other disorientating 21st century feelings as well. It’s like having a lifeline to friendship and support and much-needed occasional distraction but it’s just out of reach and I can’t swim over to get it.


      • I’m sure you know this, but all this will pass, Lisa. And it will be great when it does. :)


  5. Surprised you didn’t like this, Lisa. The dead baby narrator barely figures (from my memory it’s only near the start?); I loved the whole concept of a woman bushranger, perhaps because I was brought up on a diet of male bushranger history at school, and the writing was so evocative and the characterisation so strong. But each to their own.

    Pleased to hear your father has rallied and you can perhaps enjoy your trip a little more xx


    • The trip ended a week ago, Kim. We cut it short in Belgium…


      • Ah, didn’t know that: I spent a (computer free) week in Abu Dhabi and only just catching up with blogs now…


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