Colin Thiele Critical Essays

Introduction

Colin Thiele 1920–

Australian novelist for children and adults, poet, playwright, biographer, nonfiction writer, and editor.

Thiele uses his childhood home, southern Australia, as the setting for vividly described stories which characteristically center on a confrontation between humanity and natural forces. He introduces his non-Australian readers to a world unfamiliar yet understandable due to his care in describing the human condition.

In Fire in the Stone the desolate grandeur of central Australia counterbalances the greed and desperation of the opal miners. The fourteen-year-old protagonist of Blue Fin must fight the violent sea to save his father, their tuna boat, and himself, thereby tapping hidden resources of courage. These two books, as well as his other novels, exhibit Thiele's theme of accountability for one's actions. His skill in delineating character and use of regional color and humor prevent his works from being overly moralistic.

Athough Thiele's novels for young adults have been critically well received, few have been published outside of the British Commonwealth. Storm Boy was named Australian Book of the Year in 1975. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 29-32, rev. ed., and Something about the Author, Vol. 14.)

There is some nice descriptive writing [in Storm Boy about the title character], his hermit father Hideaway Tom, and their home on "the long, long, snout of sandhill and scrub" between the South Australian Coorong and the Indian Ocean. There is logic to the boy and his father living in complete isolation, and the attempt to fit the wild scenery into the mold of a story and Storm Boy into normal society appears as a contrived forced issue…. The retrospective view of the scenery as a happy memory is much less forceful than its original portrayal as a valid setting for life.

"Eight to Eleven—Fiction: 'Storm Boy'," in Virginia Kirkus' Service (copyright © 1966 Virginia Kirkus' Service, Inc.), Vol. XXXIV, No. 1, January 1, 1966, p. 6.