Me and Mr Booker is Taylor’s debut novel and winner of the 2012 Commonwealth Book Prize.
It is a coming of age story told in first person by Martha, a 16 year old growing up in a boring Australian country town. She lives with her mother Jessica, who has finally thrown out Martha’s father Victor after years of disappointments.
Martha’s world livens up when she is befriended by the Bookers, a childless English couple who are captivated by the combination of her naive and sassy personality. Pretty soon Martha is having an affair with Mr Booker and trying to be the child Mrs Booker so desperately wants.
The most captivating thing about this lovely novel is the narrators voice – its distinctive, wry and wise. The characterisation of Martha with her clear-eyed knowingness of how poorly the grown-ups are behaving, her mentally ill father who will never realise his endless schemes and dreams and the damaged Bookers with their failed attempts to have a baby, are really powerful.
Most of the adults are sad drunks who feel they have missed their chance in life and are stuck in their relentlessly dull country town, which makes it sound as though this is a pretty grim read. But instead it is often funny and sometimes hilarious, despite the underlying tragedy of the characters lives.
I especially enjoyed Mr Booker with his endless supply of catch phrases, which so perfectly revealed his destructive self-hatred. There’s not a lot of plot in this story and no earth-shattering climax but the writing is so good and the characters so well drawn, that it doesn’t matter.