James Dunk reviews 'The Profilist' by Adrian Mitchell

James Dunk reviews 'The Profilist' by Adrian Mitchell

The Profilist

by Adrian Mitchell

Wakefield Press, $29.95 pb, 320 pp, 9781743053454

'Everything is so sedate you could weep for vexation.' The first novel of literary academic Adrian Mitchell is a strange one. It is a fictional memoir that aims to inhabit the imagined world of the colonial artist S.T. Gill. This is a conceit that should free the narrative from the mundane, but The Profilist is a study in the ordinary.

The novel is narrated by Ethan Dibble, an imaginary artist standing in for Gill. Mitchell replicates a nineteenth-century voice, including its dry wit. It is a past, colonial ordinariness, and the details of struggling settlements, goldfields, explorations of the interior, and art exhibitions are impressive. The writing is at its best in the colourful array of minor characters. It is often immersive.

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James Dunk

James Dunk

James Dunk is a historian and writer living in Sydney. His doctoral thesis was a study of madness in colonial Australia.

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