Review

Pobby and Dingan

by Ben Rice

POBBY AND DINGAN
is Ben Rice's first novel and it is a very restrained one at that.
Measuring in at a scant 94 pages, its understated tone and first
person narrative is strange for a first-time writer. After all,
novelists are not known for being so stingy with the verbiage; but
Rice seems to understand, like only a mature writer could, that it
isn't about quantity, but quality, of words. POBBY AND DINGAN
expresses its simple message of faith and redemption with the exact
amount of both words and emotion. It is a stunning example of a
real writer at work.

POBBY AND DINGAN is the title of the book and the names of the main
characters as well. Two invisible creatures, created by one
magically imaginative or emotionally troubled young girl, stir up
great loads of trouble in the small Outback home where their
creator and her family make their home. The narrator of the story
is the brother, a prepubescent teen who is embarrassed by both the
strange goings-on surrounding his alcoholic opal rancher father and
the way in which his sister's imaginary friends get mixed up in the
scandal the father causes. Since the situations are complicated, it
is hard to determine exactly what has really happened and who has
really instigated these happenings with only the boy's telling of
his side of the story. But what POBBY AND DINGAN doesn't mince with
is clear emotion --- of growing up, of growing old, of faith and
hope and charity --- all of which are at a premium in the
Australian Outback of this story.

Rice's narrator Ashmol does not have the sting and verve of a
Holden Caulfield, although he is in a similar place in his life.
The reader will marvel at the small town depravities and gossiping
that go on, but clearly Ashmol does not see these as anything other
than original elements of the place itself. As the situation with
his sister and father becomes incendiary, it is Ashmol who speaks
for them all, who wonders aloud at the possible injustices done and
who eventually acquiesces to his sister's life of the mind,
pondering a belief that he would otherwise not have thought
possible.

  

POBBY AND DINGAN is an exquisite gem of a book. Like the
ever-elusive opals Ashmol's father searches for, it is a gem in the
rough, but a gem nonetheless. Rice is obviously on his way to
bigger and better things if he continues in this vein. An exciting
young talent, Rice will surely regale the literary world with his
next work.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on January 22, 2011

Pobby and Dingan
by Ben Rice

  • Publication Date: September 26, 2000
  • Genres: Fiction, General Fiction
  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf
  • ISBN-10: 0375411275
  • ISBN-13: 9780375411274