A Powerhouse Debut: Read our Review of We Were Not Men by Campbell Mattinson

A Powerhouse Debut: Read our Review of We Were Not Men by Campbell Mattinson

A novel that punches you in the heart: the powerful, unbearably moving and ultimately uplifting story of twin brothers, Jon and Eden, as they grow up and begin to understand what it is to be men, and what it takes to knit a fractured family back together.

This is a story about love. About the love that nine-year-old twins Jon and Eden Hardacre have for their mum, for the creek that they swim in, and for each other – this is the love that they trust, that’s clear and pure as sunlight, as honey, as water.

But in the wake of a terrible accident, the boys have to grow up fast. They compete with each other to make the Olympic Games swimming squad, fall in love with the same girl, and begin to realise how complicated love can be and how it doesn’t always show itself in the ways that we expect.

Heart-hammeringly original, intense and deeply moving, We Were Not Men is a powerhouse novel about all the various faces that love shows us and how sometimes, distracted by life, ambition or attraction, we take it for granted until it’s too late – or almost too late. It’s an unforgettable novel about the difference between getting older and growing up, from an astonishing new and original voice, pulsing with grief, hope and love.

We Were Not Men is Campbell Mattinson’s debut novel – and what a debut this is. From the very first page, I had the sense that I was in the hands of a talented, capable writer, and that this was one of those rare, once-in-a-while reads.

Told in sparse vignettes, the novel follows twin brothers Jon and Eden as they come of age, enduring tragedy, love, and heartache. The relationship between these two brothers sits at the heart and soul of this narrative. I’ve often wondered what it would feel like to have a twin – to be so closely tied to another human being, both genetically and psychologically – and after reading We Were Not Men, I felt I had some idea. The relationship between Jon and Eden is intense and emotional and sometimes messy, yet their bond runs deep and is poignantly portrayed here.

Other than the twins, another standout character for me was their step-grandma Bobbie, a quirky ex-stockbroker who enjoys a glass of red and is still grieving the loss of her husband, Jack. Jon, Eden, Bobbie and all the rest of Mattinson’s characters are vividly imagined and richly nuanced, and you will fall in love with each of them by the end of this story.

Heartbreaking, moving and incredibly powerful, We Were Not Men is a remarkable coming-of-age story, perfect for readers of Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe and Markus Zusak’s Bridge of Clay. This is a stunning achievement from Mattinson, and I can’t wait to read whatever he writes next.

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        Synopsis

        This is a story about love. Love for nine-year-old twins Jon and Eden Hardacre is simple. Their mum, the creek that they swim in, each other - this is the love that they trust, love as clear and pure as sunlight, as honey, as water. But then there's a terrible accident. And in its wake, they develop a desperation - a yearning - to outgrow tragedy. They grow up, compete with each other, fall in love with the same girl, and begin to realise that their lives - and who they love - demands something more. Something deeper. Richer. Heart-hammeringly original, intense and deeply moving, We Were Not Men is a powerhouse novel about all the various faces that love shows us and how sometimes, distracted by life, ambition or attraction, we take it for granted until it's too late - or almost too late. An unforgettable novel about the difference between getting older and growing up, from an astonishing new and original voice, pulsing with grief, hope and love. It is a revelation.
        Campbell Mattinson
        About the author

        Campbell Mattinson

        Campbell Mattinson started a journalism cadetship in 1987. He's mostly worked as a writer, editor, photographer and wine critic, though he's also had stints as a dishwasher in an Indian restaurant, as a data entry clerk at a stockbroker and as a proofreader of phone books. He won the Best Australian Sports Writing Award in 1996 for a story that is the basis of We Were Not Men. His 2006 biography of winemaker Maurice O'Shea, The Wine Hunter, has won numerous awards, as has his website, The Winefront. He describes We Were Not Men as 'the only story I ever really wanted to write'. 

        Books by Campbell Mattinson

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