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Preview Reviews: Red Can Origami by Madelaine Dickie

November 19, 2019

Red Can Origami by Madelaine Dickie is a story about Ava. She has just landed a job as a reporter in Gubinge, a tiny tropical town in Australia’s north. Ava is hooked on the thrill of going hand-to-hand with barramundi, awed by country, and stunned by pindan sunsets. But a bitter collision between a native title group and a Japanese-owned uranium mining company is ripping the community in half.

Read what our Preview readers thought:

A thought provoking book that i found absorbed me into the story. A rare insight into an outback community divided with the imminient arrival of a Japanese uranium mining company proposing to mine on sacred land. Ava leaves the big city to take up a job on the local newspaper which faces her with many challenges, one of them being forming a special friendship with a prominent local Noah. This book educated me on the challenges faced in certain rural communities where wanting to protect land while fighting off a mining giant who at the same time can save the town from financial ruin. Ava becomes stuck smack bang in the middle of the debacle which places her in near impossible circumstances. How she navigates the challenges makes for a thought provoking read and an ending that keeps you entwined in the book even once put down. – Jude, SA, 5 stars

Loved, loved, loved reading Red Can Origami. Thankyou Madeline Dickie for writing a book that describes our backyard so beautifully. I now feel like packing my bags and moving up to the North Coast of Australia and live in a rural town like Gubinge. The description of the desert and river landscapes, fishing for barramundi and other fish, beautiful sunsets, night crabbing, drinking with mates (ok I wouldn’t personally drink as much), camping in the middle of nowhere….. Why wouldn’t you want to move there. I loved how the narrative voice as you were reading was in the second person point of view. It made it easy to read and got you hooked. Ava was a likeable character that goes to Gubinge a small rural town up north of Australia on the west coast as a journalist for a small local paper. She happens to stumble across a disturbed massacre site. She realises she is onto a big story because she also finds a Grecco Blue vehicle, a Japanese owned uranium mining company vehicle that has done this. I also, loved learning about Noah, his family and the Burrika mob (nation). The conflicts between family law within their culture and just basically about their culture and how important my country is. I think this is a great book that everyone should read to learn about my country, our many nations culture of Australia and the impact mining does to our world. I think it is also a great book to introduce in school for learning. A variety of topics are bought up with what aboriginal people of Australia are facing that we need to learn about and be aware. The tension between the white population, dilemmas they face in respect to mining and what rights does native land title means. While also the impact open-cut uranium mining does to our land. Not only has Madeline Dickie written a great book but a window to our nations my country culture. – Maria, SA, 5 stars

This novel is written in the second person, which is quite unusual but also something you get used to. It is also filled with typically Australian idiosyncrasies! However, it does touch on some serious and topical issues – the tensions regarding the Aboriginal community and a mining conglomerate was interestin g and seemed well researched. I also really enjoyed the direct and punchy nature of this novel and, since it’s quite short, it’s an easy weekend read. – Meg, VIC, 4 stars

I really enjoyed it. I didn’t know anything at all about, it what to expect..so I really enjoyed it. Really human characters. Really topical themes; indigenous land rights, the important of land to the first Australians. The role of mining in a community. I loved exploring all of them in such a little weighty book. I found it told beautifully, but I can see the lack of grammar and style will make it hard for some people to read, but not me!! – Anna, NSW, 4 stars

I found Red Can Origami was a delightful journey through our country, Madeline painted a beautiful and descriptive picture of the kimberley, so easy to get lost in the landscape. Madeline’s writing style and the way in which Ava character is written made her easy to relate to. I loved the way Ava developed different relationships with all the characters in the book. I was so torn towards the end between not wanting the story to finish and wanting to find out the ending, a wonderful read. – Deanne, VIC, 4 stars

I really wanted to love this book, it sounded exciting, it sounded local and it sounded very topical for today. Sadly, I didn’t. I didn’t like the writing style, I didn’t like the way the characters were put together and I thought the ending fell very flat. There were many times when reading the book where it just didn’t feel true to the aboriginals, in fact I had to remind myself that they were. I would have loved to explore the massacre more and had more in the story about the destruction of that sacred site. It felt like it just skimmed the edges, in fact most of the story lines were just too brief and I didn’t get to immerse myself in any of them. One thing I thought was done well, I could picture the setting, it felt hot, it felt dry and very smelly. So, on that I commend the author. Unfortunately, I can’t give it more than that. – Di, QLD, 2 stars

Red Can Origami, written by Madelaine Dicki, was an intriguing read. We follow Ava, a young woman, who has just landed a job as a reporter in Gubinge, a tiny tropical town in Australia’s north. She learns to love the country, the people and the way of life. When she stumbles across the conflict between a native title group and a Japanese-owned uranium mining company, she doesn’t know where to turn or what to do next. Unfortunately, this story is one that is all too common in Australia. In many ways, I hope that this book serves to shed light on the issues surrounding capitalism and its effect on native title. This is a story of love, ambition and truth. I found it difficult to get into this book at first. I found the slang off putting and the story didn’t grab me. However, I was eventually swept up in the story and was eager to learn how it would all end. The writing is clever and sensitive. I came to enjoy the ride and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for Madelaine Dickie. – Laura, SA, 3 stars

Overall I enjoyed reading “Red Can Origami” by Madeline Dickie. At first I found the book difficult to get into because of the writing style, being in second person and the way speech was presented. However, once I adjusted I found the characters likeable and the story itself thought provoking, emotional, and relevant. – Stevie, NSW, 3 stars

Such an incredible read. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I am an avid reader of any australian author. This one certainly did not disappoint. A must for anyone who loves a cultural based storyline – Aleisha, QLD, 4 stars

Ava Kelly, a young Melbourne journalist heads to outback Australia to Gubinge, a small town in the north of WA to take up a position at the local newspaper. A long way from home, Ava quickly figures out that the Gubinge is a lot different from the big smoke and it is not long before she finds herself in the middle of a clash between Gerro Blye, a Japanese mining company, and the local native title group. Before long Ava is offered a job with Gerro Blue as their Aboriginal Liaison Officer which she accepts in the hope of helping the locals. I am not usually a fan of novels written in the second person but Madelaine Dickie did a wonderful job. A great story that is relevant to our time. A fantastic read. 4 stars. – Hannah, NT, 4 stars

Red Can Origami is a powerful story of country and Australia’s indigenous people. Dickie shows how big corporations, intent only on their own purpose, destry the land with no regard to its original owners or their history. Ava moves to Gubinge, in North Western Australia, to take up a low key journalist position. She is soon poached by the Japanese owned mining company, Gerro Blue, as the go between for the company and the indigenous owners of the land they intend to mine. Red Can Origami is a beautiful story about the Kimberley region encapsulating the lifestyle and the different people who live and work in the region. Highlighting how big corporations don’t respect the cultural heritage of the area or the original land owners. The plot was a slow burn and I didn’t see Ava as competent enough to do her job properly. She hadn’t lived in the area long and knew nothing of the local indigenous Burrika tribe’s culture or history. I recommend you grab a beer and read this story for the pure joy of Dickie’s vivid descriptions bringing to life the fishing, the weather, the heat, the residents of Gubinge and the whole desolation and beauty of the area. – Veronica, NSW, 4, stars

Red Can Origami is a book I think will polarize readers. IT’s different in the narrative style (told in second person) and the way dialogue is presented (complete lack of quotation marks) and it does take a little getting used to. People are either going to connect with the quirky choices and love this book or feel confused by it. Personally I enjoyed this novel from start to finish. It’s not a long read but the author fits a whole lot of story into just over two hundred pages. I loved the authentic Australian vibe. IT captures a different side to the country and its inhabitants than many other stories I’ve read before. You could tell that the author had spent time in the Kimberley region and knew what she was writing about. I was thrilled to read Red Can Origami and see that this author has many stories in her – and I can’t wait to read them all. She’s different and the novels she writes aren’t necessarily told in a way you might expect and that makes them all the more interesting. She explores multiple cultures and social issues in a way I wanted to read more of. – Kate, QLD, 4 stars

Red Can Origami was a thought provoking story of cultural and environmental sensitivities surrounded by beautifully written prose. While hard to get into, the descriptive writing style is amazing. With flashbacks to past times in her life, Ava, the main character, compares and draws out people, pastimes and places that are undeniably unique. Definitely an interesting read. – Jodie, WA, 3 stars

Red Can Origami is an immersive read that propels you straight into the heart of Northern Australia and the conflict between the traditional owners of the land and the Japanese mining conglomerate that are trying to establish a mining base on sacred land. Dickie writes in such a refreshing way that you feel you are trailing along with Ava as she goes about her new life, you can feel her emotional head space through the pages and sympathise with the predicament she is in. While the writing style of the book took a while to get used to, it helped add to the story telling element of the book. After reading I felt like packing up and heading north for a month or so. – Mel, NSW, 5 stars

Madelaine Dickie’s novel Red Can Origami is eye opening and authentically portrays the impact of mining on local Aboriginal communities. Through Madelaine’s research and time spent in Japan and the Kimberley, this knowledge and understanding can be seen in her writing. The novel being written in second person point of view gives the reader another perspective and involvement in the narrative. The character Ava shows the reality of someone learning about the indigenous community and the unforeseen challenges that they face within their country. I am looking forward to reading another novel from Madelaine Dickie in the future. – Christine, WA, 4 stars

This story is clever in the way we are introduced to a time and place where landscapes, social concepts and people appear wild and somewhat untamed, where traditional values clash with a globalised world. The characters that bring this story to life are written about in in a sharp, non-conformist style, reflective of the characters themselves. The story moves along at a measured pace allowing the reader to immerse themselves into the setting and presents multifaceted views on some very complex social issues. The ending however was a disappointment. Heavy story lines unfolded in the final chapter in rapid concession which was out of pace with the rest of the book. The hurried conclusion mocked the investment in time spent reading the preceding story. Considering the complexities of Australia’s chequered treatment of its indigenous peoples, land rights, natural resources and corporate greed I felt cheated by the warp speed in which this book concluded. The photo of the millennial aged author at the end of the book, wearing pearls reminiscent of a middle class, middle aged white woman turned the intention of the story into a self-serving, do-gooder white girl tale that contradicts the main character’s motivations throughout the story. – Alana, VIC, 2 stars

Red Can Origami written by Madelaine Dickie is a story that revolves around Ava who is offered a job in Gubinge. Gubinge is a town in Australias’ north. Gubinge is a small town with very high temperatures where there is a lot of drinking, crocodiles, fishing and insects.Ava becomes aware that a uranium mining company which is Japanese has made a track through undergrowth. Gerro Blue uranium mining company have made the track where splinters of bones are found there. The land there is an old Aboriginal massacre site. Of course the local native title group are against the proposal. They will fight to keep their land unharmed. Also while there Ava meets Noah, who is a leader from the native title group and she is falling for him. I didn’t enjoy this book and was disappointed. The concept of the story sounded great, a uranium mining company who want to mine on Aboriginal sacred land and the opposition it brings. Also Ava the journalist who goes to Gubinge on a new job. I always like reading books set in Australia by Australian authors, however I could not get into the style of writing. If I was not reading this book to review it I would not have finished it. – Freda, QLD, 1 star

Red Can Origami takes on the difficult relationships between native title owners and mining corporations. It is like a can of worms – negotiations are difficult between groups at the best of times, but when you add in a lack of cultural understanding it is 10 times worse! This is a story filled with strong personalities, beautifully depicted outback, cultural differences and benefit versus tradition. I didn’t realise that Native Title didn’t give actual veto rights to the traditional owners of land. Thanks to Dickie for her well-researched book, I now know a little more about Native Title rights and the heart-breaking decisions Traditional Owners sometimes have to make. I am not a fan of second person narratives, but the story engaged me from the beginning.The only really annoying part was the dialogue was marked with dashes, so sometimes thoughts and actual dialogue ran into each other. – Chris, ACT, 4 stars

I Loved my time reading and escaping into RED CAN ORIGAMI and was sorry that it was not a nice thick book that lasted longer.   Beautifully written, poetic fascinating subject. I am familiar with the area and really felt that I was there so well did Madelaine manage to capture the feeling and atmosphere.   An interesting style of narrative which really spoke to me.  A lovely way to escape busy city life and experience our country. You will love Ava’s journey and you will be tested with your thoughts and emotions on an extremely relevant subject.  Thank you Better Reading and Madelaine Dickie – Debbie, VIC, 4 stars

I wasn’t really sure what this novel would be like but with each turn of the page, I found it a drag to read. Characters on the whole were shallow and self absorbed, plot was slow and I was happy to reach the end. Very stereotypically, First Nation people were painted as drinkers and aggressive for the most part. Big business was only interested in profits with no thought of the effect the mining of uranium would have on the local communities and Governments on the side of big business. Barra fishing and other local pastimes were just thrown in as padding and I felt added nothing to plot. It was interesting how the author referred to Chernobyl and Fukushima at times throughout her novel. I also found reading each page annoying because the start of dialogue began with a dash and not speech marks causing re-reading necessary to make sense of what was happening. Definitely not a page turner for me. – Andy, ACT, 1 star

I was looking forward to reading this one. Sounded interesting and local, dealing with the world today and life in the outback of Australia. I’m sorry to say I was bitterly disappointed to say the least. I didn’t like the style of writing, didn’t like the way the story took shape and didn’t like the ending. In parts it was predictable; it was the way people/readers wanted it to be. It was very typical of what is happening in the world today, there was nothing new, interesting or exiting about it. I struggled to read it, struggled to finish it and wish there was more to the story. I also would have liked some sort of appendix to help me understand some of the talk and words used as this may have helped me to understand what was going on at times. Would love to read a book that tells a real story of the Aboriginals, the mobs and and country, something that seems more real and in a better and easier to read writing style. – Donna, TAS, 2 stars

A well written book that pulled at heartstrings and made me angry at how we treat each other as humans. A hard read, the tension and racism in the community and then between the mining company and the owners of the land. This all made the characters real and relatable and I was invested in them and their relationships. I really liked this one. – Hanadi, NSW, 4 stars

A really well written book giving the reader enough background understanding of the issues surrounding the community and locals. Not a subject I’m overly familiar with, but through this book definitely gained more knowledge and empathy. – Kim, NSW, 3 stars

In Red Can Origami, Madelaine Dickie has delivered an important story that is full of beauty, tension and emotion. The book is short at 218 pages but every word is well considered and there is no flowery prose or extravagant use of adjectives. The sense of place is highly developed and the characters are strong and well drawn. The language of the writing is so lyrical that it grabbed me from the first paragraph and took me on a ride through country. Ava is a city journalist who accepts a job on a local paper in a small town in northern WA. She consequently becomes embroiled in the conflict between different stake holders when a Japanese owned uranium mining company wants to mine sacred Burrika country. I loved this book and the way that Madelaine tells an age old story in such a modern and relevant manner. – Janelle, NSW, 5 stars

Dickie inserts her protagonist, a journalist, into a semi-isolated town where the surface is all about fishing and drinking and cattle, while below the surface, tensions seethe about land rights and mining. if the reader can get past the second-person narrative and forgive the lack of quote marks for speech, then this sometimes dark and gritty tale is a powerful, brilliantly topical and thought-provoking read. – Marianne, NSW, 5 stars

Ava is a young journalist who has just taken a job on a rural paper in the small town of Gubinge in Australia’s north. A community town of fishing, drinking, creeks, crocodiles, insects, desert landscapes and staggering heat. I laughed out loud seeing in my mind some of the fun games played around campfires like the game Swagmo, where two people roll up in their swags and bump each other to the ground! Near a cave with rock art Ava discovers a Japanese uranium mining company has knocked a track through undergrowth and churned up in the soil, clearly visible are splinters of bone, the site of an old Aboriginal massacre. The mining company Gerro Blue are determined to create a uranium mine site in the town. The local native title group are battling against the proposal and Ava winds up in the centre of it all. She also falls for Noah, the leader of the local native title group. The community is tense, will the mine lift the people from poverty by creating jobs or will it destroy them? Strong and realistic characters are portrayed in this beautifully written, thought- provoking and emotional story. – Gloria, SA, 4 stars

Red Can Origami by Madelaine Dickie Ava has returned to Melbourne after living 18 months in Japan but she is off again. Ava has moved to Gubinge a small town in Northern Australia as a reporter for the towns newspaper. She is waiting for a the big story and it isn’t long before she gets one. Gerro Blue, a Japanese owned uranium mining company is up to something it hasn’t got the rights to do and the Indigenous people of the land and the native title holders are all set to collide. Ava wants to help the Burrika people but everything becomes a mess. The tensions and conflict between the mining company, the native title holders and the community are well developed; you can feel the angst in their fight. Red Can Origami is a short but powerful read. It touches on some serious issues but also provides a sense of what life in the north of Australia is like. – Karyn, ACT, 4 stars

Ava’s a new journalist in Gubinge for the local newspaper. Ava discovers that a mining company is up to something they shouldn’t be, they don’t have the right licensing/permits to be there yet. Ava publishes an article about it while her boss is away. He is furious with her, it turns out that Gerro Blue is their biggest sponsor but it gains attention from Gerro Blue and they offer Ava a job. Ava jumps at the opportunity. However nothing turns out, as it should, everyone looses out. Everything is lost and Ava and her friends loose someone they love, they will fight Gerro Blue to make sure they get what they deserve. This book gave me a lot to think about, about the country I have grown up in and the loss of land to the Aboriginal people. Native titles are a big thing and give the Aboriginals rights to their land. I loved the plot and story line of this book and am devastated by the ending – it was sad. However the style of writing just wasn’t for me. I struggled to read it not because of the story itself but because of the way it was written. – Amy, ACT, 3 stars

The back cover blurb of “Red Can Origami” enticed me – I thought great, sounds a good story. However, when I opened and started reading, it was like hitting a roadblock. As a devotee of the English written language, and in particular a stickler to correct grammar and punctuation, I found it difficult to get past the bizarre style of writing and the re-invented punctuation, which in my opinion takes away from the flow of the story as you continually stopped to analyse what you were reading. So it’s back on my bookshelf for now, hopefully to be attempted again one day. – Jane, NSW, 1 star

This distinctively Australian novel looks at the clash between Indigenous people protecting their lands, developers, and the general need for jobs and other resources. Reconciling these things is a huge challenge; Dickie has no answers, but illuminates the questions in a moving and readable way. I am not Indigenous; nevertheless, it seems to me that Dickie has been sensitive to the culture of Australian Indigenous people. At the very least, she has tried. Dickie has forgone traditional speech punctuation. After a few pages it no longer caught my eye, and instead gave the sense of a story observed at one remove – very appropriate for a novel where disconnection and misunderstanding plays a huge role. The characters, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, are vivid, individual, and believable. The plot is familiar, in the sense that many incidents in it echo things that have really happened. It doesn’t feel tired though – we’re seeing it through new eyes. I appreciated the different perspectives in this novel. It’s an interesting novel; a strong and engaging plot, realistic characters, and insights into another culture. I really enjoyed it, and have been left with considerable matter for thought. “Red Can Origami” will entertain you, and challenge you. – Lorraine, ACT, 4 stars

Such strong characters in this book was interesting to read about them. Lovely backgrounds mentioned throughout made you feel as if you were there with them. The cultural differences were so well written and how some people over look other people if they are different. I read this in two nights as I needed to see what happened to the characters. Had some sad moments and happy one. Worth a read for anyone. – Beth, TAS, 4 stars

Red Can Origami was one the best books I have read for a while. The struggle to do whats morally right and good for the country and the local people set against the harsh landscape of Gubinge was a riveting read that i thoroughly enjoyed. – Rachel, QLD, 5 stars

Barramundi fishing and beer drinking are the common pastimes in Gubinge, a town in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Idealistic journalist Ava Kelly has moved there from Melbourne to work for the local newspaper. Fishing with friends in an area close to rock art and waterfalls, she wanders to find a croc-free swimming hole only to encounter a bulldozer and hundreds of churned up splinters of bone. She is hobbled in reporting this desecration of Lalinjura, the site of a massacre of indigenous women and children, by the editor. His concern is for the paper’s revenue from it’s biggest advertiser Gerro Blue, a Japanese-owned uranium mining company, and not their lack of an exploration permit. Ava is introduced to country and Burrika culture and begins to relate to place rather than the built environment. She also begins relating to Noah, an influential Burrika boss. ***Redacted due to potential spoilers*** Madelaine Dickie’s title and cover art are cleverly symbolic of the crushing impact of Japanese mining interests on the culture and environment. Red Can Origami is a emotively told tale that also educates with great respect. – Anita, QLD, 5 stars

While I found Red Can Origami a bit slow and hard to get into, once I did I enjoyed it. It’s a novel that really makes you think, especially about native title and what exactly that may mean. It also highlights culture and the role it plays in our lives, our interactions and how that can lead to conflict. If, like me, you find it hard to get into, I recommend persisting so you can enjoy this interesting novel. And keep an eye out for the Grug reference. That sparked my interest as Grug was a favourite of mine as a child that I still enjoy with my young family today. I wasn’t expecting it in this story! – Alice, NSW, 2 stars

Red Can Origami by Madelaine Dickie is a story about Ava, a reporter in a small town in northern Australia. She becomes involved in a local situation regarding native title, and a Japanese uranium mining company. This story covers all sides of the problem, from the native point of view, the locals point of view, and the company point of view, and the friction between all. Very descriptive writing, and the style makes you feel that you are the central character in the story. There were some interesting twists in the story, so you could never predict what was going to happen next. Interesting and enjoyable reading – Fay, VIC, 4 stars

I really enjoyed ‘Red Can Origami’. The characters are well drawn, having all the strengths and weaknesses that make one human, and Dickie’s successful use of second-person point of view as the narrative voice of this story, when combined with the use of the present tense, creates an immediacy and intimacy that forces the reader to consider the societal inequalities that occur when the needs of different cultures collide. There’s an honesty in Dickie’s writing and in her exploration of the tensions between Aboriginal groups and mining companies that reflects her knowledge and respect for country, for its people, and for the Tropical North. This book, in my opinion, marks Madeleine Dickie as a writer to watch, and I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘Red Can Origami’ won a swag of literary prizes. – Dominique, SA, 4 stars

An incredible read. Dickie’s manner of writing pulls in the reader ensuring they feel part of the story. Dickie dipicts the tough subject of racism in a courteous yet raw storyline. Credit to Dickie! – Heidi, NSW, 4 stars

“Red Can Origami” by Madeleine Dickie what a thought-provoking book. Loved the strong characters that were introduced throughout the book, especially the main character Ava. The story winds back and towards between being respectful to the traditional custodians of this beautiful country and the call of progress through Uranium mining and it’s effect on land and man. Loved the wonderful descriptions of the beautiful country, the intertwined stories and relationships that held you wanting to find out more. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, loved the style of writing and the thought provoking storyline. – Christine, QLD, 4 stars

A freshing Australian story that is set in Gubinge with Ava as the main protagonist. Whilst I found the reading of the book challenging by not using “” to indicate talking, the overall story drew me in and kept me hooked. So great to see an Australian story that is not stereotypical and incorporates both Wester lifestyle and Aboriginal culture. Madeleine is an inspirational story teller and hope there is more to come from her! – Katarzyna, VIC, 5 stars

What an incredible story really thought I was in the outback with Ava, this book is totally believable as we do have conflict between our traditional owners and the mining companies I think all Australians should read this book – Deborah, NSW, 5 stars

 

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