A Long Way from Home by Peter Carey

One of my favourite books is Peter Carey’s Illywhacker, with its outrageous narrator Herbert Badgery and the sprawling basalt plains of Bacchus Marsh. It was a riot of fun that hid a message about this country of ours, for us and the world to see. A Long Way From Home returns to Bacchus Marsh with the joy, exuberance and absurdity of Illywhacker – but with a lot more, besides.

Suspended schoolteacher (‘chalk and talker’) and quiz-show king, Willie Bachuber, is smitten when the diminutive yet perfect couple, Mr and Mrs Titch Bobbs, move in next-door with their children and an assortment of motor vehicles. Titch has one desire – to own the Ford franchise for Bacchus Marsh – but Mrs Bobs knows the future is with Holden (ironic given Holden has no future now); she swings the deal and what better way to launch the new venture than by entering the famous round-Australia endurance race, the Redex Trial. Mr and Mrs Bobs will be the drivers. ‘Driving a car is all in the bum and Mrs Bobs’ bum is a perfect instrument for the job.’ But she can’t be the navigator – Willie can. And so this odd group embarks on a wild ride around the country, where they encounter, among other things, Willie’s past and Australia’s future.

It’s hard not to be drawn into this amazing book, with Carey’s use of language and vernacular shining through the pages. As Molly Meldrum famously said: do yourself a favour …

Mark Rubbo is the managing director of Readings.