Your Preview Verdict: The Others by Mark Brandi

Your Preview Verdict: The Others by Mark Brandi

I heard voices talking last night. I’ve never heard my father talk to someone else. Not that I can remember. I was in bed, and I heard my father’s voice first. He was talking to someone, and then I heard another man with a deep voice. The man got angry, I could tell, even though I couldn’t hear exactly what he was saying. Then my father said, ‘I’d kill you first.’

On his eleventh birthday, Jacob’s father gives him a diary. To write about things that happen. About what he and his father do on their farm. About the sheep, the crop, the fox and the dam. But Jacob knows some things should not be written down. Some things should not be remembered.

The only things he knows for sure are what his father has taught him. Sheltered, protected, isolated. But who is his father protecting him from? And how far will his father go to keep the world at bay?

All too soon, Jacob will learn that, sometimes, people do the most terrible things.

From the bestselling author of Wimmera and The Rip comes an unforgettable novel that explores the darkness in our world with the light only a child can find.

Read some great reviews from our Preview readers here:

I found it hard to put this book down! Through Jacob’s eyes, you appreciate his innocence and the simple beauty he finds in his surroundings each day. At the same time, the darker details slowly emerge and the reader pieces together his father’s past and present. It’s nothing short of a miracle that Jacob is able to make the best of his lot in life, to grow up with a conscience. I found Jacob’s story to be a strong argument for ‘nature’ in the nature-nurture debate. Sometimes people are simply born good, and they can withstand the evil that surrounds them. Maarit, ACT, 5 Stars

The Others is told through the diary of Jacob, an 11-year-old boy living on a farm with his father, and because of this narrative choice is a quick and easy read. The language used may be simple, but the images evoked are wonderful. Through Jacob’s storytelling we can see the farm’s location, empathise with the drought and its impacts, and understand what he means when he describes the different eyes his father has depending on the situation. Jacob just wants to learn and understand the truth about what has happened to his mother, and to the others in the world outside of the farm, but only has his father and his own explorations to teach him. The relationship between Jacob and his father is an interesting one that reflects beautifully the trust that children have in their caregivers, and the power these caregivers have over these little lives. This is a wonderfully written coming of age story set in such a unique way that it made it a real page-turner and a pleasure to read. Thanks to Better Reading and Hachette Australia for the ARC. Melinda, SA, 5 Stars

The Others by Mark Brandi is a captivating story told through the eyes of a young eleven-year-old boy. Jacob is sheltered from the world and is kept in an isolated farmhouse, hidden away from everyone, and he only knows what is told to him by his father, or what he can read in the dictionary and encyclopedias. They live day by day, alone, but soon Jacob starts to wonder if his father has been telling him the truth about things. Jacob uses a diary to record his thoughts and sketches, and we soon realise something sinister must have happened. With the story centred around paternal love that may be taken a little too far, this book was a real page-turner. It was very interesting to see things through the innocence of a child and I am grateful for the opportunity to read and review this very stimulating and well-written novel. Christine, QLD, 5 Stars

Jacob, a boy of just 11, cuts a lonely, unloved, scared figure with only his diary, encyclopaedia and dictionary at his calling. He’s a strong boy who knows how to read his father’s expressions and acts accordingly. The only connection and love he has are with the animals surrounding him. But the question is – does he know that’s the emotion he is feeling? As the ‘blurb’ indicated Jacob is “sheltered, protected, isolated”. The main question here is – was he actually protected? I found his father hard to read. Did he believe what he was telling Jacob was true or was he just an evil man controlling the events surrounding his son. Yes, Jacob was safe – but from whom? The Others? Or the one closest to him? I loved this book and can see Mark Brandi becoming one of the authors of our time. Diane, SA, 5 Stars

The Others is a hauntingly brilliantly written novel written from the point of view of 11 year old Jacob in the form of a diary. Through his eyes only, we get an insight into Jacob’s life and his coming of age through the innocence of a child when we as adult readers know there is more in play. Brandi keeps you guessing right from the beginning and just when you think you have the circumstances of Jacob’s life worked out, Brandi spins you around and you start again. From the start, we do not know Jacob’s name, where he lives or even if the book is written in the present day or the future. Brandi ensures the mystery is there right until the end and leaves you thinking about Jacob well after you have finished reading. Brandi has sensitively covered a number of themes in the novel that you don’t even realise until the end. I can see this novel being studied in schools for the HSC. Mark Brandi has now become an auto buy author for me. Mel, NSW, 5 Stars

Wow! I literally couldn’t put this book down. It had everything! Fear, love, empathy, sympathy, hate. A wonderful book that was very moving and will stay with me for a long time. Highly recommended. Ros, ACT, 5 Stars

The Others by Mark Brandi was a most interesting read. It began set in a dystopia inhabited by a father and son. The setting was wild yet rural and it was not easily identifiable, except for a few hints that it was set in Australia. It is not until almost the end that the location is revealed. Brandi has a very insightful perspective on the young protagonist who is the omnipresent narrator and the reader is given his viewpoint throughout. The inclusion of diary entries and little diagrams and dictionary definitions enhances the narrator’s naivety and willingness to do as he is told…until towards the very end of the novel which is quite sinister and leaves the reader pondering why they hadn’t been more aware of what actually was happening. A thoroughly good read, indeed I read until the wee hours of the morning to find out what actually occurred. Denise, NSW, 5 Stars

This is a story that will stay with you long after reading. It was gripping and suspenseful and was hard to put down. I couldn’t get enough of Jacob and his father’s story and I hope it will have a sequel. Meg, SA, 5 Stars

The Others is broken up into four parts following a young boy, Jacob’s journal entries. He is located on his isolated farm in Tasmania, Jacob lives with his father who is suffering from serious mental health issues, along with physical abuse the father leads Jacob to believe that everyone, “the others”, have the plague and are looking for them to hurt and infect them. Jacob has never left the farm, has had no social interactions, never seen another location and vaguely remembers his mum who has since passed. Mark Brandi along with his previous titles Wimmera and The Rip can tell a story that will capture an audience, I was hooked within the first 30 pages of this book. Mark dives deeply into child disconnect from the world without the love and support of a family, hardship, farming, and survival. I would highly recommend this book whether you’re a fan of Mark or not. Crystal, TAS, 5 Stars

There is a tension that builds up as you read this novel, you know there is more than what is being described. The narrator tells you that his father gave him a diary for his eleventh birthday, to write things down . . . but not everything; some things he is not supposed to write down. When I read this I thought it was going to be a story of child abuse. And it is in a way, but then as I read on, it seemed that perhaps it was a story about a post-COVID world, with the father and son escaping from a plague. But there are many subtle hints that even this is not the truth. The story is told from the perspective of the boy, trying to understand, but at the same time, careful and fearful not to provoke his father’s anger. And so as we read, we gather the clues . . . Brandi has done it again – this is such a powerful novel, that absolutely captures the tension in the father-son relationship, the careful treading around potentially explosive subjects. It is a thriller that will draw you in, to try to solve the mystery. You won’t be able to put it down. Helen, SA, 5 Stars

This is my first time reading a Mark Brandi novel and it will not be my last. Definitely a 2021 must-read! The Others is intriguing, suspenseful and just an all-round brilliant read. It will have you captivated from the very first page where Jacob’s existence comes to life in his journal which is given to him by his father on his 11th Birthday. Jacob writes and draws of darkness and imagery from his father’s soft eyes, and the emotional meaning behind the gold tooth smile and everyday way of life. A Father who keeps the world at bay from his son where he has been brought up to believe the town was and still is plague-infested by “others” and living off their land is their only survival and his only key to secrecy from the outside world. Thank you to Better Reading Preview #BRPreview. Available July 2021. Sally, NSW, 5 Stars

A study of a father’s psychological power over his son, the events are unveiled via the diary of an eleven-year-old boy living with his father on a small, isolated farm during a drought. Jacob knows little about his earlier life, only what his father has told him and that is not much. According to his father, there has been a disastrous plague in the community and people referred to as “The Others” living on the other side of the hill must be avoided. After a visitor comes to the house and his father refuses to tell him what is going on, Jacob begins exploring beyond the farm boundaries on his own, a decision that will change his life. There is an underlying and increasing current of fear and suspense throughout the novel. Initially, it is the fear of “The Outsiders” and what might happen if Jacob disobeys his father but then, as he begins to distrust his father, Jacob realises what his father has done and what he might yet do. Vicki, VIC, 5 Stars

This charming book is written in a diary format by a sweet and innocent boy. And it’s through his naive eyes we see his world, almost entirely constructed by his father. And everything is as it should be… or is it? In a post-pandemic world, this book could be a true story, if not for the twists and turns throughout. Honestly, once I started I could not put this book down and I can only hope for a sequel to soon follow. Beautifully written. Mercury, NSW, 5 Stars

An interesting and engaging take on the social misfit persona which broaches the darkness humans are capable of without demonising. The narrator’s voice is clear and well-realised with sincerity and authenticity that was sustained throughout. The mystery of “the others” was well maintained while subtly inviting the reader to question the veracity of the father’s narrative. I enjoyed reading this book and feel it will have a reasonably broad appeal. Margaret, QLD, 5 Stars

The prose encapsulates the sentiment of an 11 year old boy named Jacob, captured in a diary gifted by his Dad to Jacob on his 11th Birthday. The daily writings, drawings, the meaning of words copied from a dictionary gives the impression of ‘old world’. Their living arrangement and relationship with his father appears in a time when plague has decimated the world, or so Jacob is led to believe. An 11-year-old, living on a farm doing daily duties, killing to eat, learning and obeying his Father, knowing there is nothing beyond the farm for them, nothing safe. Need to mind our own, stay away from The Others but Jacob is always wary, always watching, always wondering. Read in just a few hours, this novel is intriguing. You get the feeling the timing and conditions don’t fit the scene but for Jacob, it’s all he knows, until it isn’t. This novel is a suspenseful, thrilling, exciting, compulsive page-turner, it’s all these adjectives, but The Others, in one word is BRILLIANT – has two meanings, I’m leaning towards #2 Exceptionally clever and talented. Thank you Mark Brandi for your amazing talent. Sharon, QLD, 5 Stars

This book is magnificent!!! Listening to the voice of Jacob is such an interesting perspective and the writing is superb! Totally read this in one sitting! Stacey, WA, 5 Stars

This is a ‘slow burn’ novel with events initially depicted by a pre-pubescent boy being raised by his father. It’s an easy read in the early stages as one would expect from an eleven-year-old boy who is writing about his everyday life in a diary. I thought I knew where the story was going at that stage, something that also seemed to be given away in the title. Then I had my, ‘Oh, this is going to be predictable,’ feeling shattered. I love a writer who can do that without filling the novel with distracting red herrings. The tension which had been building slowly then escalated. There are faint parallels with William Goulding’s classic novel, Lord of the Flies – partly because of the remoteness of the setting, and the age of the central character, but mostly because survival, one of our strongest instincts, is central to both novels. I hadn’t previously read anything by Mark Brandi but this Aussie writer is now heading my TBR list! Chris, NSW, 5 Stars

A very interesting read. Well written, the characters of Jacob and his father developed nicely. You could feel the isolation of the land they lived on, waiting with them for the rain. I spent the book wondering what was happening, suspecting in part, but never sure of the ending. The story is basically musings of an 11-year-old boy whose only education is what his father has taught him, backed by an old set of encyclopedias and an old Women’s Weekly of his mother’s. It speaks of his isolation, loss and growth. I will definitely be looking for more from this author. Kerrie, NSW, 4 Stars

Mark Brandi is an author who has been in my to be read pile for some time. Due to receiving a preview copy of his new book The Others he was accelerated to the top of the pile. A boy, through his diary, narrates the story. Living in isolation with his father, the boy is living under psychological power from his father. He is lead to believe that he is living in isolation so that he is kept safe from “the others” who all have a plague and are looking for them to hurt them. He has to learn to read his fathers moods in order to stay safe. The book explores themes such as mental health, disconnection from the world, hardships and survival. It also explores how children can be at the mercy of their family’s mental health illnesses when there are no other support networks in place. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will be grabbing another Mark Brandi book and placing it at the top of my to be read pile. Ally, TAS, 4 Stars

This was a chilling psychological thriller that I really enjoyed. With two main characters, a father and his son, it was easy to follow. I felt for the 11 yr old son who idolised his father and looked to him for guidance and protection. Instead, his view of the world was marred by the unspeakable truths he discovered. Kerry, WA, 4 Stars

The Others is the latest novel by Mark Brandi. The novel follows 11-year-old Jacob as he grows up in a dystopian world, a world which for Jacob consists wholly of the family farm where he lives with his father. In The Others a plague epidemic has ravaged Australian society and Jacob tells us about his world through his diary entries, and how the father and son duo navigate these challenges isolated on their farm, all the while keeping away from ‘the others’ (those affected by the plague). The story is filled with suspense, as we anticipate the arrival of ‘the others’, and interwoven into the storyline is the dysfunctional relationship between Jacob and his father. Despite Jacob being a child, I found him very relatable in the telling of his story. The story is full of suspense, at times quite subtle but other times quite gripping, all the while holding your attention. The Others was a very enjoyable read, once I started I couldn’t put it down! Catherine, QLD, 4 Stars

This is a book chock full of parallel realities – the written and the spoken, us and the others, the hard man and the soft eyes, the real and the fantasy. The Others by Mark Brandi is a very well sketched and coloured environment. It was easy to forget how the book started and get stuck in the goings-on at the farm. The introduction held many of the answers around the plot resolution but I could never build the pathway and so it kept me captured in its pages. To read a child’s view of what depression or mental illness looks like as a physical attribute was heart-rending. ‘The soft eyes are like he’s giving up, like he just wants to live inside himself from how on’. The concept of an illness that can’t be seen in this parallel reality. ‘I always did the things he told me to. I did them so he wouldn’t get the soft eyes. So he wouldn’t see that thing inside. But he still did sometimes. He saw it no matter what I did’. The child trying to read the signs and act appropriately and the stress this can put on the psyche. Cathy, QLD, 4 Stars

Jacob lives a solitary life with his father on their secluded rundown farm. They live a fairly primitive life bathing in the dam, toileting in an outdoor pit, and for the most part living off the land catching wild rabbits and goats and occasionally slaughtering one of their sheep for food which they store in an outdoor pit. For his 11th birthday, Jacob gets a diary from his father to write about things which happen in their everyday life. He realises early on not to write everything down as his father may read the diary when he is not in the house. As time goes by Jacob realises that things are not as they seem, or what his father would have him believe. The title is named after the people that Jacob’s father says live on the other side of the hill in a commune. The book is written somewhat in a diary type manner with pictures of different things along the way. What with the strange happenings throughout the story it certainly kept you turning the pages to see what will happen next. I can’t really compare this book to a style similar to another author, as I haven’t read anything remotely similar to this before. Vicki, VIC, 4 Stars

I love a book with a satisfying ending, one that keeps me thinking long after I’ve turned the final page, and that’s what I got with The Others. Having said that, I felt the storyline had a lengthy and quite slow-paced unfolding, which while keeping me questioning and interested, really only kicked up a gear in the final stages. I really enjoyed 11 year old Jacob, the fresh and vulnerable narrator, in particular, his explanation of his behaviour around his unstable father. It was so interesting to be inside his head for the journey. This book is well worth a look. Kim, WA, 4 Stars

11-year-old Jacob lives on a remote farm in Tasmania with his father, who keeps him safe from all other people who are corrupt and ridden with a deadly plague. Safe, isolated or is it something else? Jacob’s only choice is to believe the world is as his father portrays it, what else has he known? His father’s darkness and brooding keep him on edge but more dangerous still are his soft eyes. What one man will do to keep the world away. Mark Brandi brilliantly portrays the man behind the soft eyes. Joanna, VIC, 4 Stars

This is my first Mark Brandi novel and I will definitely be looking into his previous books after the experience of The Others. I was immediately drawn into the world of the boy who narrates the story through the pages of his diary, though it took over 350 pages to discover his name was Jacob. His father is keeping him isolated on the farm to keep him “safe” from the plague and the others after the death of his mother. It was definitely a heart-pounding experience sharing the harsh realities of his daily existence and hoping that he would ultimately reach safety and normality. Sue, NSW, 4 Stars

Mark Brandi has done it again. He has created a coming of age story so enthralling and heartfelt, that I am saddened I have finished it. The voice of 11 year old Jacob and his search for knowledge and the truth is truly captivating. I was pulled along on his journey to understand more about the world he lives in – a world that is destroyed by plague, causing him and his father to live in isolation, and their daily fight to be safe and survive. I read this book in one sitting, as I was so enchanted by Jacob’s desire to know more, while navigating a tenuous relationship with his father and the grief of losing a mother he never really knew. I couldn’t stop reading as I wanted to make sure Jacob was going to be safe in the end. Well done Mark, another great novel. Vivienne, VIC, 4 Stars

How to describe The Others? It has taken me 2 weeks to get my thoughts together. The tension is there from the beginning and doesn’t let up. I found myself becoming more and more horrified as the reader, following the narrator Jacob through situations and events that I understood on a level that he, as a child, does not. As the reader, you can see the abuse and the danger to Jacob unfolding, while being powerless to stop it. It made me deeply uncomfortable. There is some relief in the conclusion, but there is no neat, happy ending here. I was gripped, yet disturbed by this book. Would not read again, but that is an endorsement of how far out of my comfort zone it took me. I’m glad I read it, it is the work of an obviously accomplished author, but there was no joy in reading this for me. My respect to the author, Mark Brandi. Bonny, QLD, 3 Stars

The Others is an easy read, full of tension and suspense. Uniquely written from the perspective of an 11 year old, it sucked me right in from the first page. I picked it up and didn’t put it down again until it was finished, it was a long night but it filled me with anticipation wanting to see how it would end. It would make a good movie. Rebecca, NSW, 3 Stars

This is a book about Jacob and his father. They live together on their farm. Jacob’s father gives him a diary to write about things that happen on the farm. But not all is as it should be. Jacob has been taught that ‘The Others’ live outside of the farm. But who are ‘The Others’ and why must Jacob be so afraid of them. This is one of those books where you just keep reading to actually find out why Jacob must be protected. The book is a quick read, however, I was disappointed when all was revealed. I did not love this book and would be annoyed if I had paid full price for it. For me three stars. Jonathan, NSW, 3 Stars

The Others by Mark Brandi is told through the words of Jacob in the diary given to him by his father on his eleventh birthday. They endure a hand to mouth existence on an isolated farm surviving on a diet of vermin-infested oats, putrefying feral goat meat, the occasional rabbit and a few hard-won potatoes from the drought-ravaged garden. There is no power and bathing is restricted to a monthly dip in the muddy dam. Jacob’s schooling comes from a set of encyclopaedia, a dictionary and life lessons from his father on how to trap, kill and butcher their food. Jacob barely remembers his long-dead mother or the circumstances of her death. Jacob lives in constant fear of ‘the plague’ he has been told has affected the country and ‘the others’ – survivors who may attack them at any time. He is also deeply afraid of his father’s erratic mood swings and like many survivors of mental abuse monitors his every word and action in case it triggers a reaction. As Jacob searches for more information about the world, he begins to question his father’s rules and the truth of his stories. This is a relentlessly bleak novel which I did not particularly enjoy. Jacob’s voice is extremely authentic but this is also problematic for an adult reader. It felt more like a YA novel. I wanted more about Jacob’s father and what really led up to his decision to isolate his family and force his son into such a miserable existence. Dianne, QLD, 2 Stars

I didn’t really enjoy this book. I found it quite boring and a bit repetitive with the dictionary meanings all the time. It spiced up a bit at the end but overall the book was average. Margie, VIC, 2 Stars

I didn’t really enjoy The Others by Mark Brandi. I liked the premise of the story but I felt it dragged too long which made it unenjoyable. I lost interest about halfway through. I also found the ending a bit rushed, left with more questions than answers – but questions I’m not really that interested in knowing. I think there would be people who enjoy this, but it’s not for me. Alice, NSW, 1 Star

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                      Publisher details

                      The Others
                      Author
                      Mark Brandi
                      Publisher
                      Hachette
                      Genre
                      Fiction
                      Released
                      30 June, 2021

                      Synopsis

                      On his eleventh birthday, Jacob's father gives him a diary. To write about things that happen. About what he and his father do on their farm. About the sheep, the crop, the fox and the dam. But Jacob knows some things should not be written down. Some things should not be remembered. The only things he knows for sure are what his father has taught him. Sheltered, protected, isolated. But who is his father protecting him from? And how far will his father go to keep the world at bay? All too soon, Jacob will learn that, sometimes, people do the most terrible things.
                      Mark Brandi
                      About the author

                      Mark Brandi

                      Mark Brandi's bestselling novel, Wimmera, won the coveted British Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger, and was named Best Debut at the 2018 Australian Indie Book Awards. It was also shortlisted for the Australian Book Industry Awards Literary Fiction Book of the Year, and the Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year. His second novel, The Rip, was published to critical acclaim by Hachette Australia in March 2019.Mark's shorter work has appeared in The GuardianThe Age, the Big Issue, and in journals both here and overseas. His writing is also sometimes heard on ABC Radio National.Mark graduated with a criminal justice degree and worked extensively in the justice system, before changing direction and deciding to write. Originally from Italy, he grew up in rural Victoria. Mark now lives in Melbourne and is working on his next work of fiction.

                      Books by Mark Brandi

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