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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Pobby and Dingan

Ben Rice

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To purchase Pobby and Dingan

Title: Pobby and Dingan
Author: Ben Rice
Genre: Novella
Written: 2000
Length: 94 pages
Availability: Pobby and Dingan - US
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Our Assessment:

B+ : impressive in some respects, but overall slight and not entirely convincing

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Daily Telegraph A 11/12/2000 Edward Smith
The Guardian . 7/10/2000 Lisa Darnell
The NY Times Book Rev. A+ 5/11/2000 Jeff Giles
The Observer A+ 14/1/2001 Robert McCrum
The Observer A+ 2/6/2002 Joanna Hunter
Sunday Times B+ 31/12/2000 Tom Deveson
The Washington Post A 10/12/2000 Lydia Millet
Die Welt A 8/9/2001 Monika Klutzny

  Review Consensus:

  Generally very positive, with some extremely impressed.

  From the Reviews:
  • "(Q)uirky, moving and completely unexpected. It will charm all but the most determined cynic. (...) (F)or all the witty interplay between appearance and reality (...) it is Ashmol's entirely believable narration that makes Pobby and Dingan so irresistible. (...) He is decent but never pious, sometimes stroppy and often funny. Finally, I've encountered a hero I really like." - Edward Smith, Daily Telegraph

  • "British-born Rice is keen to get his colloquialisms right, but the story would have worked better if he'd pitched it for what it is -- a charming, tender tale for children." - Lisa Darnell, The Guardian

  • "Pobby and Dingan is an enormously touching, imaginative and unexpected novel that just glows in your hands. (...) What's so extraordinary about Rice's novel is how unpredictable it is, how effortlessly it mingles whimsy and gravitas, how its plot races ahead long after you figured it would run out of gas." - Jeff Giles, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Every character in this pocket masterpiece is speaking Australian with a vengeance. The way in which the rhythms of everyday speech are used to narrate this spellbinding and suggestive fable is just one of its exceptional qualities. (...) This novel marks one of those debuts that may well turn out to have been of the greatest significance." - Robert McCrum, The Observer

  • "By turns, quirky, shocking, moving, funny, fantastical and all too real, these are beautifully crafted stories from an almost astonishingly gifted writer." - Joanna Hunter, The Observer

  • "(A)lthough it teeters on the edge of sentimentality, it shows the search for the impossible to be both touching and necessary." - Tom Deveson, Sunday Times

  • "At once delicate and down-to-earth, melancholy and coarse, Pobby and Dingan is a disarmingly modest and carefully rendered debut. (...) Don't let the slimness of the volume dissuade you; the story has a quiet strength that makes it memorable." - Lydia Millet, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Pobby and Dingan is a slim little novella, and it tells a fairly simple story. Set in contemporary Australia it is a timeless sort of tale from the outback. The Williamson family live in Lightning Ridge, New South Wales. It is opal territory, and the father is trying to stake his claim and strike it rich. Like most in the area he is fairly unsuccessful.
       There are two children: young Ashmol, who narrates the story, and his younger sister, Kellyanne. And there are two other significant characters, Pobby and Dingan, Kellyanne's imaginary friends. Unfortunately, things take a bad turn when it appears that Pobby and Dingan are, as Kellyanne tearfully announces, "maybe-dead."
       Kellyanne is an odd little girl, completely obsessed by her imaginary playmates. She has no other real friends, and she can't accept that others won't accept Pobby and Dingan as real. To placate her her father one day offers to take the two with him while he goes mining and Kellyanne is at school. He plays the game of pretend well enough when he takes them with him that fateful morning, but forgets when he gets home and it appears that he lost them. Kellyanne insists they go back to look for them. Naturally the invisible friends can't be found, and while her father looks for them, trying to humour her, he gets arrested for trespassing on another miner's claim -- the lowest thing one can do in this territorial backwoods.
       Kellyanne becomes convinced that her two friends are dead, and the Williamson's feel the wrath of being ratters as the story of their trespass makes the rounds. Kellyanne suffers greatly, getting sick and wasting away from worry and grief. Narrator Ashmol tries to save the day by enlisting the town to find the figments of his sister's imagination, leading to some amusing scenes, and he ultimately manages to stage a resolution. Kellyanne is pleased enough -- but the story doesn't quite end there, as fact proves even more intractable than fiction.
       Rice writes decently enough, in a half-childish Australian outback patois, and the story moves along in a sprightly manner. Irritated by Kellyanne's irrational claims Ashmol nevertheless does all he can to help his sister, and Rice captures his voice -- childishly exasperated, helpful, imaginative, and eager -- well. There are some neat scenes in the little novella, from his description of finding the two imaginary beings (and what he does with them) to the descriptions of these hinterlands and the folk that populate it. From the Moozeum where Humph, the owner, displays such unlikely items as an invitation to Princess Di's funeral (for which there is a not unexpected explanation) to Old Sid the Grouch, the cause of many of the problems, Rice adds just about the right amount of local colour.
       The book is not entirely satisfying, in particular as regards Kellyanne's mysterious illness, not all of which can be pinned merely on her lost friends. The names and the language occasionally appear forced as well, too-clever wordplay with too little behind it.
       Pobby and Dingan is really only a short story, and it could be shorter still. It is good enough as that, but it feels thin, a bit too little for a whole book. Rice also tries, in part, to compensate by trying to make it weightier than the story really allows. It would appear stronger in the pages of a magazine; the burden of standing alone between book-covers is a bit much for the slight tale. Still, a worthwhile read

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Pobby and Dingan: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       English author Ben Rice was born in 1972. He lives in London.

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