This book was such a disappointment.
I picked it up at the Sydney Writers' Festival after it won the SMH Young Australian Novelists of the Year award. Seeing that it also made the Miles Franklin Award shortlist, amongst others, I expected it would be amazing, and I liked the concept. Told from the perspective of a little boy, Floundering details a road trip and stay in a caravan park with his brother and his mum – who has actually kidnapped the boys away from their grandparents because she's a terrible mother.
For the first part of the road trip I was quite enjoying the ride. I liked Ash’s interpretation of a child’s view of the world, and while some of the language seemed too adult, I thought it was mostly quite authentic. The lack of quotation marks was strange but effective.
Then the road trip just kept going. And Loretta, the boys’ mother, got progressively more awful. I was impatient for them to get where they were going and things to start happening. The language started to bother me a little, but I was still willing to stick with it.
When they finally got to the caravan park I thought, now we’re getting somewhere. Except we didn’t. We didn’t get anywhere. Ash achieved an atmosphere of intense, hot, boredom – but while that was probably what she was going for, it was unfortunately incredibly boring to read. It felt like nothing ever happened, except Loretta was becoming more and more neglectful. When something did finally happen, it was so utterly sickening that I don’t even want to think about it.
By that stage the language was well and truly grating on me and the formatting just felt like it was trying too hard. I had to actually force myself to finish the last half of the book, and it was only because I had already come so far that I kept going. There seemed no point to the story, other than to show a snapshot of some really terrible things happening to two children. Even when there’s some hopeful imagery, it gets dashed and the kids just wind up more miserable than before. Floundering was bleak, boring and ultimately a horrible reading experience.
Published: 2013, Text Publishing
Get It: Book Depository