Feather Man

Feather Man

by Rhyll McMaster


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780714531489
Publisher: Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd
Publication date: 09/01/2008
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 8.48(w) x 10.88(h) x 0.99(d)

About the Author

Rhyll McMaster is the author of several award-winning poetry collections including The Brineshrimp, Chemical Bodies, Flying the Coop, The Evolutionary History of Edward Kelly in Primary Colours, and Washing the Money. She is also the author of the play for ABC radio broadcast, On My Empty Feet.

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Feather Man 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
shawjonathan on LibraryThing 22 days ago
Feather Man is one of those books that lingers. ("You know, she was very clever the way she used that song," I'd ruminate days after reading it. "I just realised she didn¿t ever quote the last two lines." Or: "You know, the final line of the book is much more open-ended than I thought.")If the book grabs you, and it evidently doesn¿t grab everyone, it does so powerfully. It starts with the narrator -- much is made of her name, but I¿ll call her Sookie -- being raped as a child, and goes on from there, not so much to a catalogue of subsequent horrors as to a dissection of the emotional neglect and invalidation that made her first accessible and then vulnerable to her attacker, followed by a grim narrative of her adolescence and development into an artist. She manages to be done over pretty badly before the modified optimism of the ending.There are echoes of any number of books here: The Color Purple, For Love Alone (very strongly), The Vivisector (in the descriptions of Sooky's painting process). I don¿t mean to say the book is imitative. On the contrary, it has a very strong sense of being personal. I don¿t assume that Rhyll McMaster is telling her own story here, but I¿d be surprised to hear that she wasn¿t the same age as Sooky, or brought up like her in suburban Brisbane. I happen to have been born in the same year and state as Sooky, and probably Rhyll McMaster: 1947 in Queensland. Though my childhood and adolescence were vastly different from Sooky's, one of the pleasures of the book was the frequent moments of cultural recognition -- in the language, the points of reference, the attitudes (though Sooky's parents are given to us without any of the softening humour and affection that attended the dismissal of children's emotional states in my experience).
samantha464 on LibraryThing 22 days ago
I had a great deal of difficulty with this book. The voice was hard for me to fully understand, as is often the case when an adult writes as and adult, speaking as a child. THe distance between the character and myself as reader is too great when the narrator is speaking in memory. The premise of the book sounded highly interesting to me when I read the description, but I felt like the way McMaster plunged directly into the rape scene was too jarring. I had not had any time to get to know the character or feel anything for her, so I felt like that scene offered nothing but shock value. I recognize the way she built the narrative, giving us the critical plot point followed by character development. In theory this allowed the plot to built off the character and her response to the rape, but it just didn't jive with me. Overall, it wasn't a bad book, but it felt overwritten and distant. It was not at all suited to me as a reader.
StoutHearted on LibraryThing 26 days ago
This novel is the story of a young woman's search for her identity, a search that goes through several men, beginning with the old neighbor who molests her, and ending with his equally self-centered son. The structure of the novel is organized into the progression of four men's impact on her life: Lionel (her rapist), Peter (the too-eager first lover), Redmond (Lionel's cruel son through whom the narrator believes the past can be made right), and Paul (the father-like gallery owner). Despite these four distinctions, one man has as much an impact on the narrator's life, if not more: the father who withheld his love, went mad, and abandoned his family for his mistress. The memories of these men continuously haunt the protagonist, whose name is not revealed to the reader until she has secured her identity.But has she really secured her identity, or merely just freed herself from her childish attachment to the family that stole her innocence? A hallmark of her relationships with men is how each of them tries to change her. Even Paul, the kind gallery owner who seems most suitable for her, eventually gets her into a skirt against her normal routine, and says the haunting words that echo her rapist Lionel: "Whose popsy are you?" The question remains unanswered, but even Lionel never let her answer it and would further inform her: "You're mine." While the skirt can be interpreted as the narrator's relaxation from the confines of her past, Paul's last words in the novel are chilling, and I wonder what the author meant by it. Is Paul a vessel through which the narrator can explore her newfound identity as an artist and independent woman, or is he just another man wielding the puppet strings? I think it's telling that the narrator's symbol of independence, the single bed, is taken over by Paul in the room he once designated as just hers, but eventually houses them both. I suppose the consolation is that she will be well cared for, but that seems to damper the themes of independence and identity. We don't want to dislike Paul, but we do wonder at his motives. The narrator, meanwhile, gets the loving father figure she always craved. Despite the troubling end, the novel is very well written. Australia comes alive with the stifling heat that matches the stifling relationships, and the wildlife particular to the area. The narrator is a character with whom we can identify and sympathize even at her meanest, even when our patience is tried during her relationship with Redmond. The beginning of the novel is hard to take, as the narrator's search for fatherly love renders her vulnerable to Lionel's advances. Yet it is all written believably, her pain and rejection ultimately real and all the more harrowing. There is so much to discuss in this novel: the narrator's mother alone could take pages of analysis, as could the themes of mirrors and oceans, including the relationship of Redmond and Pammy as a reflection of each other. With so many nuances, this novel has many layers to pick at.
schmadeke on LibraryThing 26 days ago
Feather Man, by Rhyll McMaster, is the coming of age story of Sooky, an only child who lives in Brisbane, Australia with parents who seem to be too distracted with fighting their own demons - and each other - to pay much attention to Sooky. Her parents are inattentive and generally impatient and as a result, she spends a lot of time with the new neighbor, Lionel. A strange, unhealthy relationship develops between Sooky and the elderly Lionel. Despite the fact that her mother encourages her to spend time with Lionel and his wife, Sooky eventually pretty much ceases contact with them.Sooky's parents divorce, leaving her mother bitter and disillusioned and her father unavailable when he moves away to live with another woman. In high school, Sooky becomes increasingly interested in painting, and a true creative talent emerges. Whether it is because of her unhealthy relationship with her parents, or what happened with Lionel, or some combination of both, Sooky seems to drift through life in a fog of emotional disquiet and unhappiness. She has trouble forming healthy relationships. Sooky eventually falls in love with Lionel's son, Redmond and follows him to London. By now it is the 1970's. Her relationship with Redmond plays out against the backdrop of the London art scene. He does not treat her well and Sooky struggles to keep a balance between placating the demanding man she thinks she loves, and pursuing the only thing that has ever made her truly happy - her art.McMaster is an amazing writer. Her prose is pitch-perfect - in the whole of this book, there is not an extraneous word. This story has a very substantial feel, due primarily to McMaster's painstaking character development. From the first page, the reader is truly inside Sooky's head, and comes to know her intimately. I wanted so badly for everything to turn out well for her, for her to overcome her past, to be happy.Despite the fact that Sooky disliked her mother quite intensely, I found her to be somehow endearing. Yes, her mothering skills were somewhat lacking, she was distant, negative, even harsh. I felt that much of her personality was attributable to the times - it was the 1950's and there wasn't much a woman could do if she found herself in a bad marriage, except grumble and complain. I must say, much of the grumbling and complaining was downright hilarious. Sooky reviled everything about her mother, to a fault; at times it seemed extreme and unwarranted. I wanted her to set aside her resentment toward her mother, and see that under that harsh veneer was a woman who cared about her and could have been Sooky's ally in a lonely world.This is not a light or particularly fast-paced read. But if you're looking for a book with real substance and excellent character development I think you'll enjoy this. If you liked Behind the Scenes at the Museum, by Kate Atkinson, I'm sure you'll like Feather Man - the novels feel very similar. They are both coming of age stories featuring complex main characters and a strong focus on the complexities and significance of the mother-daughter relationship.
JGoto on LibraryThing 26 days ago
The narrator of Rhyll McMaster¿s Feather Man, Sooky, is a damaged woman. As a child she is ignored by her bitter and incompatible parents, and sexually abused by the old man next door. She grows up yearning for someone to love and value her. Again and again, she turns to the people who abuse her, hoping that if she is good enough, they will love her. She feels friendless and invisible, always an outsider. The verses of the song, Paper Moon, float in and out of her thoughts throughout the book. Her reality is like the song ¿ flat and unreal. The book is divided into four parts, each focusing on a man in her life. Her character and her actions seem to be determined by those men. The men are very different from one another, but all try to mold her into something she is not on order to enhance their own lives. With the exception of Paul, in the final section of the book, Sooky¿s relationships with men are self-destructive and almost painful to read about. Sooky is contemptuous of her mother, yet she starts to take on her mother¿s personality by always blaming cruel or abusive behavior of the men she is involved with on herself. Sooky¿s saving grace is her ability to paint. Through her artwork she can express the pain in her life and eventually finds her voice. This book is not an easy read. The relationships and characters are complex, giving the reader much to think about.
anotherjennifer on LibraryThing 26 days ago
Rhyll McMaster's first novel is the turbulent coming of age story of Sooky, a young girl who lives in Brisbane, Australia at the start of her narration. Not long into the novel, she recounts an instance of sexual abuse at the hands of her adult neighbor, family friend, and amateur chicken farmer, Lionel, which sets the tone for the types of unhealthy and abusive relationships she will encounter throughout her life. Sooky's quarrelsome parents are blind to the instances of abuse, and as their interaction with their daughter increasingly consists of ignoring or berating her, Lionel's abuse morphs into welcome attention in the young girl's mind. When Sooky intimates that she "suffered people-burnout at an early age," it is not difficult to see why.As she matures and eventually relocates to England in hopes of becoming a professional artist, Sooky struggles in nearly all of her relationships, particularly those that include men. Although she is often the victim in such relationships, Sooky's sympathetic situation does not absolve her from perpetuating unhealthy alliances. She comes to believe that "simple pleasures are for inferior people," and seems determined to break ties with any benevolent figure in her life. After encountering no shortage of narcissistic, manipulative characters, Sooky herself has acquired these traits and manages to shun seemingly successful relationships while pining over Lionel's equally troublesome son, Redmond.Although Sooky is plagued by an inordinate number of volatile, abusive situations, McMaster imbues the novel with a dry humor that can induce actual laughter despite the largely bleak subject matter. It is occasionally difficult to sympathize with Sooky, and her decisions can be frustrating, but she is an intelligent, reflective character who is self-deprecating and witty. While she may be guilty of some of the behavior she abhors in others, Sooky's actions are often a painful reminder of the abuse she endured. Early in the story, McMaster writes that Lionel robbed Sooky of the "mundane, unexamined happiness of ordinary life," and despite her faults, one hopes that Sooky, having mastered the art of examining her life, finds some inkling of happiness even when she doubts that she wants it for herself.
eidolons on LibraryThing 26 days ago
First I have to say that this book was beautifully written. The imagery was amazing. But the plot, the story? I don't get it. I couldn't connect with the characters at all. Being human was the extent of commonality. Now, I wasn't alive in the 50's through 70's. I've never been to Australia or London. So maybe it's just that I can't get it. For the most part, the story seemed entirely too cliche. I suppose those cliches have to be there for a reason, right?For the first third of the book or so, I had no idea how old Sooky was or what the passage of time was like. It could have been days or years - there was little reference. The second third of the book was printed horribly. Every five pages or so there were two blurry pages. It's hard to read, enjoy, and review a book that literally gives you a headache.The last eighth of the book, everything was too easy. Paul's appearance and all that he brought with him was too.. out of nowhere. It wasn't realistic or believable in the slightest. And the ending? It was neither happy nor sad. I wasn't left with any sense of closure.I did not enjoy this book - which is sort of rare for me. Very rare, actually. But I can say that it was written beautifully. A blurb on the front cover claims that it is "poetic" and I completely agree. I never saw the comedy that the back blurb promised, but I can live with that. Blurbs often seem written by people who never read the book anyway. This one was no exception.I don't think I'd actively recommend this book to people. Maybe a select few, if I truly thought they'd enjoy it. But not as a "wow, this is a great book that every one should read!" sort of suggestion.
blakefraina on LibraryThing 26 days ago
Rhyll McMaster knows how to rivet her readers¿ attention. The opening scene in Feather Man depicts Sooky, the pre-adolescent protagonist, being molested by Lionel, the creepy pedophile next door. It¿s no accident that this is our introduction to Sooky, because it¿s this abuse that shapes Sooky¿s entire story ¿ her adult behavior, her relationships with men, her sense of self-worth. The story is narrated by Sooky, looking back on her childhood in dusty suburban Brisbane, where she is neglected by disinterested parents and pawned off on Lionel (dubbed ¿Feather Man¿ by the girl because of his brood of hens), an elderly neighbor with a bedridden wife. Despite feeling ashamed of the sexual abuse, she also craves his attention because it is the only time she is made to feel special. Her mother is a stereotypical shrill harridan and her father, whom she dotes on, is a vaguely disinterested adulterer. As Sooky matures, McMaster gives the reader glimpses into the great divide between how she views herself and how the world perceives her. As a young adult, she becomes a rather prolific artist and begins to find modest success. But she doesn¿t seem to express any particular passion for her art and then blithely abandons it for marriage to a rival artist ¿ Lionel¿s equally creepy son Redmond. And yet her work, which is described in detail, sounds arresting and unique. Outwardly, Sooky, like her artwork, displays the brash bravado of a rebel, but inside she isn¿t particularly impressed with herself, frequently deferring to the whims of the mediocre men in her life. In her own mind, she is secondary to them, so much so that even in her own life story the chapters are entitled Lionel, Peter, Redmond and Paul.I found this one a tough go in parts. The main character has an almost laissez faire attitude about her own best interests, so there is little of the expected rage or self-pity which can be a bit frustrating. Yet there¿s enough oddball humor to keep the proceedings afloat. One particularly memorable scene involves Sooky inadvertently lighting her veil on fire at her wedding reception, causing a sensation and landing her in the paper ¿ only to be met with outrage by her husband for upstaging him. McMaster is a wonderful writer. She evokes a very tangible sense of place - from the stifling backwater of Brisbane to the grotty bohemia of the London art world. Plus all of the secondary characters are nuanced and believable. But Sooky is certainly her masterwork. In her, McMaster has created a difficult, contradictory, infuriating, funny and admirable protagonist. Truly one of most believable characters I¿ve come across in fiction.
pinprick on LibraryThing 26 days ago
Rhyll McMaster is obviously a very talented writer; her prose is wonderful and descriptive and a joy to read. The book, however, was impossible for me. Regardless of the great writing the story itself was much too dark for me to enjoy. It made me feel awful to read about the young protagonist and her troubles, and I finally had to put it down. I've always prided myself on my ability to finish every book I start, but I simply couldn't do it with this book. Perhaps if I give it some time and return to it, I'll feel differently about it, but for now it's going to have to sit on my shelf and wait.
RobinDawson on LibraryThing 26 days ago
Fantastic. The story traces the development of a young girl nicknamed Sooky, and the novel is structured around her 4 key male partners. The setting is Brisbane in the 60's and Sooky has a fairly dysfunctional family. She feels very close to her father but he becomes progressively crazy and disinterested in her. Her mother is closed off and cruel. Seeking contact she spends a lot of time with the neighbours, Lionel and Dolly. Lionel has chooks and he encourages Sooky to be his helper. He artfully builds an intimacy between them which leads to sexual abuse. The abuse takes place on the floor of the chook pen and is described in the first chapter. A stunning start ¿ no slow reveal here! Given the lack of support and warmth in her home situation, combined with the manipulative skill of Lionel, it is quite plausible that Sooky would eventually fall victim. Her response to the abuse is explored in detail. Clearly the abuse harms her at a very deep level ¿ she shuts herself off from the abuse and creates a shell, a façade, with her emotions well concealed. But there¿s also ambivalence. She still wants to have Lionel¿s attention. It is better than his rejection ¿ it is better than being `loved¿ by no one. It is unclear whether Sooky's parents or Lionel's wife have any awareness of what¿s going on., but it seems at least possible - and what's more they seem intent on pushing her towards Lionel.I think the first section of the book is the best. It paints a terrific picture of family life in Brisbane in the 60's.The novel goes on to describe Sooky's relationship with three other men, her move to UK, and the development of her ability as a painter. Along the road of her life Sooky makes some very bad choices, but we can see why this happens, and it's good to see that she eventually starts to use her real name and develop a stronger sense of self .Given that she seems to have at last achieved a sense of wholeness and realness the closing line is quite perplexing. Just when she seems to have finally pulled herself together the final line suggest her partner may be another colonizing male¿. and she may once again let herself be a victim. The story emerges from a very deep, intense place ¿ the emotions expressed are visceral and powerful. The focus is on the internal, the state of mind, the feelings, the perceptions of the heroine. The connections, associations seem derived in part from the unconscious. The use of nursery rhymes, dreams, fairy stories also convey primitive sources. Bringing the skills of a poet to the task McMaster writes lyrically, choosing each detail, image and word with great care and precision. She uses short, clear sentences. This novel reminded me of another excellent book about sexual abuse of children - 'Choo Woo' by Lloyd Jones (author of 'Mr Pip').
wbarker on LibraryThing 26 days ago
I feel this is a well-written book, but it wasn't for me. The story flowed nicely, and was quite descriptive. I learned a lot from the book, but it was too depressing for me. The main character went through so much unhappiness, and was sexually abused by a neighbor as a young child. Add to that neglectful parents, and it was just a little too harsh of a reality for me.
Melissa_W More than 1 year ago
Rhyll McMaster uses her considerable poet's skills to bring Sooky's inner world to life. Sooky's imagination is lush and alive even as the adults in her life are dreary, repressive, and dangerous. The graphic event that opens the book may be offputting but stick with Sooky as she grows up - her transition from child to artist is rewarding.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In 1958 Brisbane, while her father abuses her mother, their preadolescent daughter Sooky is mostly ignored by them except when they encourage her to hang elsewhere. She spends a lot time with her almost thirtyish neighbor Lionel who constantly orders her to play with his hardened Willie.------- Several years later her father leaves taking the music with him, but leaving behind the Tennessee Waltz and a distraught mother. In London Sooky has moved on to a new stud with football player Peter using an engagement ring to order her to play with his English Willie. Almost at the same time Lionel¿s son Redmond manipulates Sooky the artist to do what he wants from her she knows no other way to live.--------------- Finally tired of being used, abused, and discarded, Sooky visits a gallery that she thinks Redmond once took her to. There she meets an older patron of the arts Paul. He mentors her but he cleverly maneuvers her into doing what he believes is good for her.-------------- In this deep somewhat depressing character study, the child makes the adult as Sooky learns as a youngster from observing the relationship between her parents and from the way Lionel sexually assaults her that men dominate women. Each of the four men (five counting her father) expects to control her though they use subtly different approaches to achieve their objective of a submissive Sooky. Part of that early life lesson is for her to never be happy for herself as she can only be happy by pleasing the dominant male in her life. Rhyll McMaster paints a portrait of a female who has spent her life under the cruel thumbs of abusers.-------------------------- Harriet Klausner