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One is reminded of Anson Cameron and Tim Winton in reading Cameron Stewart’s debut novel, WHY DO HORSES RUN?

Tender and humane is what Tim Winton thought of it and who am I to disagree?

WHY DO HORSES RUN? tells the tale of Ingvar, an enigmatic character, kindred literary character to Paris, Texas’ Travis, a man who has walked out of a previous life into the landscape and doesn’t stop for three years.

Love and hope are merely flecks of gold in a seam of quartz. The moon has seen all manner of tragedy on earth. I wonder what it sees for me?”

A fugitive fleeing a traumatic experience, an incident that simmers under the slow burning heat of the narrative until it boils to the surface, Ingvar strives for the anaesthetic of amnesia to erase the memory of the event. But erasure is more than elusive, it is impossible, inducing compulsive movement and insomnia. Sleep for Ingvar crouched like a hunting cat but the leap was never taken.

At last he finds some sort of sanctuary in a remote tropical valley where recently widowed Hilda allows him to live in a shed in return for some labouring. They’re an odd couple, he muted by the unmentionable, she garrulous with the ghost of her husband, Col.

There are a bunch of other interesting characters in the valley – a young girl called Ginger, a group of mysterious misfits led by flamboyant Mick, and a sage old bloke known as The Mayor, who sprouts one of the most salient and encompassing lines in the book: A squid has three hearts and blue blood but they’re nothing on us. We’re the strangest fucking creatures on the planet.

WHY DO HORSES RUN? is a galloping read, a free rein rush of a story, a sprinting narrative that tackles the hurdles of varying responses to trauma in its momentous stride.

Lyrical and poetic, WHY DO HORSES RUN? explores the interior life and the external world, immersing the reader in the Australian landscape as well as Ingvar and Hilda’s mindscapes.

To call WHY DO HORSES RUN? an impressive debut is an understatement.

It’s rare and revelatory. Run with it.

WHY DO HORSES RUN by Cameron Stewart is published by Allen & Unwin


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