The Others by Mark Brandi

‘I don’t really think of you much anymore.’

When Jacob turns eleven, his father gives him a diary to write in. A way of practicing writing while recording what happens as Jacob and his father go about life on their isolated farm in Tasmania. Jacob writes about their sheep; about the goats they hunt for food and the drought. Jacob has questions about his dead mother (whom he cannot remember), about the plague that and ‘the Others’ he and his father are avoiding. And he wonders about the town and when he will be able to visit it. But Jacob knows that there are some questions his father will not answer, and he knows when to be careful.

We see this narrow, constrained world entirely through Jacob’s eyes. His father is the source of his knowledge, supplemented by a dictionary, a partial encyclopaedia, and an old magazine. There are hints, as Jacob tells us what he hears and sees, that his father is hiding information from him. And, naturally, Jacob becomes curious. His father has told him not to go beyond certain boundaries, and Jacob’s fear when he does so is palpable. He is not sure whether to be more afraid of his father, or of ‘the Others’.

And the ending? It is perfectly unsettling.

‘In case you’re coming. Just in case you’re coming for me.’

This is Mr Brandi’s third novel, and I have enjoyed each of them.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith