Katerina Bryant reviews 'The Secret Son' by Jenny Ackland

Katerina Bryant reviews 'The Secret Son' by Jenny Ackland

The Secret Son

by Jenny Ackland

Allen and Unwin, $29.99 pb, 327 pp, 9781925266160

Jenny Ackland, in her fine début novel, re-imagines Australia's historical landscape, exploring a fictional world in which Ned Kelly fathered a son. Delving into relationships that span generations and continents, Ackland merges the stories of James Kelly, a young man who fights at Gallipoli in 1915 but 'won't kill any man' and Cem, a lost young man looking to connect with his roots in the Turkish village of Hayat in the 1990s.

While the novel's protagonists are all men, The Secret Son repeatedly examines women's place in society; it shines a light on the domestic and professional spheres they inhabit. Ackland depicts the conflicting roles of men as perpetrators of violence against women and as protectors of women, as shown in Australia and Turkey at different times. The power and strength of women is a recurring theme. Seen through the lens of Cem, however, it feels as though Ackland is undecided as to whether Australia or Turkey is the safer space for women. This risks reducing a complex feminist and cultural discourse to an irrelevant comparison.

Read the rest of this article by purchasing a subscription to ABR Online, or subscribe to the print edition to receive access to ABR Online free of charge.

If you are a single issue subscriber you will need to upgrade your subscription to view back issues.

If you are already subscribed, click here to log in.

Katerina Bryant

Katerina Bryant

Katerina Bryant is a writer, editor, critic and law student based in Adelaide. Her work has appeared in journals such as Voiceworks, Overland Online and the Meanjin Blog. She edits nonfiction for Voiceworks.

Social Profiles

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.