Jane Harper’s first novel The Dry, which she worked on while taking our Six-month Online Novel-Writing Course in 2014, is being published by Little, Brown today (12 January). Centred around an investigation into a brutal family massacre in a small Australian farming community, the novel was released in Australia back in summer 2016 and has had an brilliant response from the critics there.
It’s already getting some amazing reviews in the UK and the US as well. Little, Brown has summoned an impressive social media campaign to promote it (#TheDry), and Amazon has picked it as one of their best books of January 2017.
The excitement surrounding this book is palpable; Jane Harper’s UK agent Alice Lutyens (who represents a number of ex-CBC students) described it recently as ‘one of the most breath-catching books I’ve ever read’.
Equally as full of praise was Hollywood producer and fellow Australian Bruna Papandrea (Wild, Gone Girl) who optioned the book for Reese Witherspoon’s production company Pacific Standard before it even hit the shelves. She wrote that: ‘When you fall in love, the feeling is undeniable and Jane’s remarkable book possesses my two favourite things: brilliant writing and an Australian setting.’
The Australian reviews last summer were very strong. ‘Every now and then an Australian crime novel comes along to stop your breath and haunt your dreams,’ opened a particularly laudatory write-up from Sue Turnbull in The Sydney Morning Herald. This review picked up on the distinctively Australian setting and quality of the writing: ‘There is about The Dry something mythic and valiant. This is a story about heroism, the sins of the past, and the struggle to atone. But let’s not forget the redbacks, the huntsmen, the rabbit scourge and all that makes this a quintessential Australian story beautifully told.’
The Daily Review were also thrilled by the emergence of an impressive new Australian talent, describing the book as a ‘fresh and rewarding take on the genre’, which ‘heralds the arrival of an exciting new literary voice’.
Responses in UK press so far have been similarly positive. In the Guardian crime fiction round-up, The Dry was singled out as a must read by Laura Wilson, who described the book as ‘a remarkably assured debut’ with ‘strong characterisation and a sense of place so vivid that you can almost feel the blistering heat’.
Both The Sunday Times and the Mail on Sunday have picked it as one of their top crime/thriller books of the week. Joan Smith writes in the Sunday Times that it was ‘hard to believe that this accomplished piece of writing, which returns again and again to the savage beauty of the landscape, is Harper’s first novel’. John Williams in the Mail on Sunday described it as ‘a riveting murder mystery and a beautifully wrought picture of a rural community under extreme pressure’.
In the US, Janet Maslin of the New York Times gave The Dry the kind of review a debut novelist would die for, as well as name-checking the Curtis Brown Creative course where it all started. She writes that ‘Harper throws out so many teasing possibilities that it’s hard to believe this is her first novel. And even harder to believe that she learned to write fiction via a literary agency’s online writing course […] One trick the course clearly taught her was a basic of the crime genre: Make sure that nothing is what it looks like at first sight’. Going on to reference the film adaption now in development, she writes that ‘Harper has made her own major mark long before any film version comes along’.
A common theme in many of the reviews is the impressiveness of Harper’s depiction of its rural Australian setting and the skill with which she portrays her central characters – along with their surprise that The Dry is in fact a debut. We predict this impressive round-up of reviews will only grow in the coming weeks and months.
To find out more about the courses at CBC and to apply…
For our Six-Month Online Novel-Writing Course with Suzannah Dunn (deadline for applications is midnight, Sun 22 Jan), click here.
For our Six-Month London-based Novel-Writing Course with Simon Wroe (deadline for applications is midnight, Tue 17 Jan), click here.
For our Three-Month Online Writing for Children course with Catherine Johnson (deadline for applications is midnight, Sunday 29 Jan), click here.