A Short But Intense Experience
Sometimes the most intense stories told are short. Take Hemingway’s six-word short story “For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Worn.” With only a few words, so much emotion and intensity can be told straight to the reader.
This is exactly what Adelaide poet Geoff Goodfellow’s 2022 verse novella Blight Street does too. It’s a short piece of fiction, yet, it’s one of the most intense and raw experiences I’ve read recently. And it’s a piece that is easily one of the best I’ve read this year.
Many Intense Themes and Life Situations
Blight Street is broken into three parts, each following a different character: Carl (part 1), Larissa (part 2) and Sean (part 3). Carl and Larissa are partners while Sean is Carl’s estranged father, who is currently locked up in prison. Their stories are so different, yet, they intertwine and form a well-developed narrative, which drives each of the character’s stories, even when it’s not focused on them.
And oh boy are there very intense themes and life situations in this verse novella. Blight Street has themes of incarceration, teenage pregnancy, alcoholism, drug use and paedophilia to build its narrative. And the way they are told is especially effective, considering the limited number of words. These themes too are only some of them that are covered in this novella. It goes much deeper and covers so much more experiences that are all too real in disadvantaged areas.
The novella shines a light on people rarely spoken of in Australian literature; the disadvantaged suburban working class. These are people I remember seeing and hearing about from my side of Adelaide growing up. Even though the story is set in the northern suburbs of Adelaide, these were all familiar themes from the southern suburbs too. It comes to show that you can’t believe everything the media describes to you about disadvantaged areas and the people who live there.
A note to make too, while this verse novella is fictional, there is such a place called Blight Street in Adelaide, two in fact. One is in Brompton and the other in Davoren Park, both suburbs north of the Adelaide CBD.
A Tough Sell For Some
Although it is well-written and a fantastic experience overall, Blight Street I can see might be a tough sell for some.
First is the cost of it. When I first found this novella at the 2022 Adelaide Writers Week, it was $20AUD. This is pricey for such a small book, considering I could buy Frank Herbert’s Dune for less. Yet, if I originally bought this book, it would be worth every dollar I spent on it, just for what is inside it. However, I waited until recently to read it because I borrowed this from the library, as I didn’t buy it at Writer’s Week back in February/March.
Second is the themes themselves. The people and lives they life in this book are not pretty by any means. These aren’t people who live ‘happily ever afters’ or are even that likeable. However, if these people were anything but this, the story would fall apart and not be as engaging as it is here.
Geoff Goodfellow’s Blight Street is a well-written, hard punching verse novella teeming with character and emotion. Although it is short, it packs more in it than a five-hundred-page novel and certainly is well worth it, despite its price tag. I recommend this especially to those who live in disadvantaged areas of society to give this book a read. You will be shocked how authentic it feels and how relatable these characters are.
Blight Street is available where all good books are found and at local libraries. If your library doesn’t have a copy, suggest it to them today and tell your friends to borrow it from there as well!