Book review: Somewhere Down a Crazy River

Somewhere Down a Crazy RiverI happened to be killing time in the Cairns airport flipping through the bookstore when I came across the travel memoir of “catching love, fish and wisdom”: Robyn Catchlove’s “Somewhere Down a Crazy River.”  I then promptly forgot about it until I received a notice from the publisher, and I gave it a read.  It’s the story of a woman in 1970s north Queensland who, with her lover, builds a fibreglass boat and fishes for a living over the course of eight or nine years…meandering from one spot to another and living primarily on the boat or in temporary camps.

The book is clearly written to be quirky; like the small towns where everything is “Ye Olde” and if you’re not quaint, you’re boring, Ms. Catchlove’s book is a spilling internal monologue poetically written by a somewhat-hippie.  The writing style actually reminds me of Nick Cave’s “When The Ass Saw The Angel”; despite the occasionally flowery passages, “River” was easy to get into, and the story of a woman trying to make it as an independent fisherman in 1970s Australia was compelling on many levels.  The moments when she deals with gender roles and inequality, as well as the political battles between corporations and small business, are fascinating and in-depth, from an insider’s perspective.

Where the book falls apart are the numerous flirty references to the author’s abusive relationship with her fishing partner, Les.  She starts by telling  us that this great passionate love ended because he hit her…and then continues to make coy, flamboyant mention of it at the end (and middle…and beginning) of most chapters.  When the relationship finally starts to fall apart, you’re not only not surprised, you also kind of wish she’d stop talking about it.  Yes, he hit you.  You told us already.

Also, Ms. Catchlove leans heavily towards a marijuana-fuelled peace-loving point of view…sprinkled with massive contradictions which sometimes make it difficult to understand her point, which is, given, meandering.  She’ll follow a passage about the oneness of fishing on a river with a vivid description of how she beat some guy up in a pub.  The whole book is also liberally sprinkled with descriptions of the fabulous sex she was having with soulmate Les; since she already told us he was an abusive jerk, I’m not actually that captivated by these lurid scenes. Also, since anyone who would get past the stories of fishing and swearing and hitting in the 70s has probably already had sex at least once, continually breaking down the hydraulics of how it works, in romance-novel adjectives, seemed unnecessary.

The book is entertaining in its vivacity, but the same aspects that make it interesting keep you disengaged from the characters: the awareness of metaphor and word usage, the deliberately trippy descriptions of landscape and Aboriginal contact (“sisterhood” gets used an awful lot), and the homespun wisdom nuggets that are presented neatly at the end of every chapter.

Overall, this book is worth a read, but not a re-read.  You kind of get the point.

Posted by | Comments (2)  | August 10, 2010
Category: Adventure Travel, Family Travel, Female Travelers, General, Lifestyle Design, Oceania, Simplicity

2 Responses to “Book review: Somewhere Down a Crazy River”

  1. Rebecca Says:

    This sounds like an interesting book. At least travel writers have interesting stories to tell.

  2. Sage Says:

    Rivers always draw me, but I think I’ll skip this book.