From the winner of the 2021 Penguin Literary Prize comes this rural thriller, perfect for reading with your book club.
Denizen is a gothic-style thriller that explores rural Australia’s harsh country and stoic people – a tension that forces its inhabitants to dangerous breaking points. When nine-year-old Parker starts feeling like something is wrong with his brain, he desperately seeks control in attempts that culminate in deadly and devastating ways.
The book is fast-paced, surprising, and asks plenty of big questions, making it a fabulous group read.
Discussion points and questions:
- Why do you think author James McKenzie Watson called the novel, Denizen?
- Denizen plays with language and form, there are fragments of narrative and split streams of thought, flashbacks and ghosts. In what ways fid these different styles add to the narrative? What did they suggest about the story being told?
- A character in the book speaks of ‘the tension’. This exists between rural Australia’s simultaneous love for harsh country and stoic people. He says these ideals are incompatible and that people who try to embrace them both at once end up suffering for it. How do you feel about this theory?
- Parker grows up on a vast property outside a remote country town. How does this isolation – in its many forms - influence his childhood and direct his adulthood?
- Parker and his mother Meredith’s complicated relationship is characterised by antagonism. What do you think the primary drivers of this conflict are? How comfortable were you with the depiction of these two?
- How does the landscape influence the story? Is this a novel that could only have taken place in the Australian bush?
- Rural thrillers and crime are popular genres of Australian literature. How does Denizen fit into this category?
Want to hear from the author himself? Find out how James McKenzie Watson used life experiences to shape the novel in this Q&A.
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James McKenzie Watson, the author of Denizen, offers up some advice to anyone interested in entering the Penguin Literary Prize 2023.
James McKenzie Watson, winner of the Penguin Literary Prize 2021, shares how growing up in rural NSW, past struggles with mental health, and his present nursing career helped shape his debut novel, Denizen.
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