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‘A politician was a man apart, with power lent to him while it lasted, a sack of bones in a suit coat thereafter.’

‘A politician was a man apart, with power lent to him while it lasted, a sack of bones in a suit coat thereafter.’
Years ago, in a midnight encounter beside the railroad tracks, a young boy meets a stranger with a powerful secret, a gift of uncanny understanding and a talent for knots. From this encounter, Marcus Friendly's ideas of himself take shape as he rises to become Australia's sixteenth Prime Minister. The night he dies, a shadow, ‘thin as a scythe’, is there to collect him when he falls. Another young boy, Ross Devlin, witnesses the event.

Ross eventually finds himself on an outback station working for Kyle Morrison, son of Australia's most famous poet, ‘The Bounder’. Kyle suddenly needs help to undo a knot of his own, and a young union organiser, Max Petersen, steps in to right an old injustice.

Now, after years in parliament, Max Petersen, the inheritor of the Marcus Friendly tradition in more ways than one, awaits a call from the PM for the ministry he craves. Around him, a crisis among friends and family is unfolding, and everyone is forced to confront the legacy they have inherited, their influence in a changing world and what follows on after them.


Roger McDonald has produced works unmatched in their capacity to bottle certain popular and imaginative dimensions of this country, its myths and its histories. He also has maintained an uncompromisingly individual voice, speaking a potent kind of Australian vernacular, inflected with his own wild and lyrical timbre. McDonald's storytelling can be as defiant and textually raunchy as that of Peter Carey or Richard Flanagan, as breathtakingly poetic as Tim Winton's. The Following is a novel often incomparable in its unshackled energy and graphic splendour. There are great rolling, bracing, gusts of reverie. There is a real respect for the minor, webbed histories of working-class and rural Australians. Here is writing both highly crafted and liberated that flares blindingly, intermittently and drops us back, somewhat disoriented, looking for tracks, without apology.

Stella Clarke, The Australian

He [Roger McDonald] is exceptional. McDonald possesses a rare, slightly eerie gift for concision, surely the essential component of any epiphany. Some of the abbreviated descriptions and asides are memorable simply because they are so beautifully, elegantly exact. As ever, McDonald displays a sure, steady command of how the Australian bush looks, smells and feels, in each season and through all weather.

Mark Thomas, The Canberra Times

McDonald's 11th novel is ambitious and wide-ranging, but also much leaner, describing its setting and its hard-bitten milieu with economy and moments of grace. The Following is just as interested in the sweep of history as in those who are caught up in, and occasionally influence, the great social changes it surveys. Its themes of destiny, sectarianism and political patronage echo across generations as the influence of Friendly rises and wanes. Long-term admirers of McDonald, a Miles Franklin award winner, will recognise his reverence for the Australian landscape, evoked through a palette of bushfire haze, birdsong and outback pubs. This provides a backdrop to this convincing reimagining of some of our most fascinating national icons, a tale whose characters are forever haunted by prophesies of greatness, seeking their chance to imprint their mark on the national story.

Daniel Herborn, The Age

Roger McDonald is a great wordsmith. The Following is a novel in three parts. ‘The Friendly Knot’ is the story of Marcus Friendly, who, according to the author’s notes, is loosely based on former Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley. ‘The Morrison Hitch’ is a clever story about Kyle Morrison—the son of the great Australian poet Bounder Morrison—who lives on a big property that he once owned but couldn’t run properly. ‘The Yeoman’s Bend’ follows a group of friends on the South Coast of New South Wales at the end of their lives. The three books are loosely linked by an unnamed political party (but obviously the Labor Party), working on the railway and living on the land. And as you can see from their titles, the stories are also connected by knots, with repeated references to knots and commas in the text. I think McDonald had great fun in writing this book, and part of its playfulness is how it jumps from ‘now’ to 60 years hence. For example, in one paragraph a character is living in the 1930s and in the next we see he owns a Jaguar XJ6. This book will be enjoyed by fans of McDonald. It will appeal to people who like to look back gently at Australian history.

Clive Tilsley, Australian Bookseller + Publisher

McDonald writes beautifully, and the vast scope of the novel is conveyed with insight, wisdom and occasionally poignant humour. The Following traces generational legacies and it seems as if the author is likewise challenging readers of the 21st century to consider how we might endure in a cynical world grown soft with indulgence.

Lisa Hill, ANZ LitLovers Blog

McDonald captures the Australian essence, his detailed storytelling breathing human into history.

Paul Robinson, Qantas the Australian Way

There are many fine things in the ambitious three-part novel.

Andrew Riemer, The Sydney Morning Herald

A novel based around Ben Chifley and the period when he grew up and onto after the second world war. McDonald has written a great Australian historical novel when the nation was coming to grips with unions and a sense of egalitarnism. What a different time, what brave and ordinary men and women. Where others have ridiculed Australian early politics McDonald writes with humility and a great Australian voice.

Chris Page, Pages & Pages

Truthful. Poetic, moving, essentially rural novel.

Don Anderson, Australian Book Review

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback


    September 2, 2013

    Vintage Australia

    272 pages

    RRP $32.99

    Online retailers

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    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook


    September 2, 2013

    Random House Australia

    272 pages

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