Craig Sherborne is a poet, playwright, and novelist. His debut memoir Hoi Polloi was shortlisted for both the Queensland and Victorian Premiers’ Literary Awards in 2005, and his follow up Muck won the Queensland Literary Award for Non-fiction in 2007. His latest fiction novel, The Grass Hotel, is an engaging story about a mother’s relationship with her son.
Craig’s poetic style of writing grips the reader and refuses to let go, as we witness the family dynamic change through the internal monologue of a mother experiencing dementia. The story centres around her relationship with her son, but also focuses on his love for horses, as he lives on a farm known as ‘The Grass Hotel’. Craig has a unique way with words, his work reading more like a poem than a novel at times, with short, sharp sentences, as seen in the opening line of the book: ‘You were born with your hands in your pockets, your head hanging down from the soul up.’
The novel’s style offers a contrast when compared to other fiction books. Its sentences have a poetic rhythm that will surprise the reader, alongside beautiful imagery and vivid descriptions that accentuate the mother’s ordeal with losing her memories. The personal and confronting topics that progressively worsen throughout the book, as the mother becomes more forgetful, will leave an impact on the reader of the harsh reality of dementia.
In addition to the poetic form, the author often uses the second person perspective, making for a unique reading experience, and giving the reader an intimate connection to the characters; ‘You can touch the sides. You can put your hands through’. This allows The Grass Hotel to have an engaging perspective often lacked by the impersonal nature of the commonly used third person.
The beginning of the story reveals the critical nature of the mother: ‘You’d become a gloomy bother to the point I called you Blisters. Me tiptoeing around your moods, Master Blisters.’ The relationship shifts as the mother becomes reliant on her son; ‘I watched hours through the door where the uniforms said to watch and you’ll come. My Twinkle-son’. This family dynamic that transitions through conflict and passion lies at the heart of the story, as the reader experiences the frustrations of the son dealing with his difficult mother.
With unique perspectives on important topics including death, dealing with elderly people, being compared to others, and forming our own lives, Craig tackles issues that the reader can relate to whilst telling an engaging story, as he skilfully contrasts the slow demise of a once-proud lady with the beauty and power of horses. I was enthralled by the unique writing styles Craig implemented in his book and would recommend this novel to anyone, especially to those looking for something new, and who want an emotional connection to a well-written story.