Cover Image: We Were Not Men

We Were Not Men

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Member Reviews

Thanks to Netgalley for a copy of this book for an honest review.

This story starts with a tragic accident that changes the lives of twins Jon and Eden.  The writing style is annoying and I just didn't like it.  The boys step-grandmother Bobbie had lots of platitudes but little substance. The treatment of the Hemi lost me completely!
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A unique novel which explores the grief and kinship of twin brothers Jon and Eden, following the death of their parents. The narrative surrounding the accident at the beginning is harrowing and sets the scene for the subsequent challenges that the boys and their grandmother face in rebuilding their lives. 

The twins throw themselves into swimming which is a theme that runs throughout the novel and becomes a powerful device that mirrors the connection between the twins and their struggles with coming of age in the context of grief, love and belonging. 

Grandmother Bobbie is central to the story, she is recently widowed, drinks too much and her pearls of wisdom throughout the narrative were definitely a highlight for me. Her character is flawed but also shines with all the wisdom of someone who has lived a colourful life, with throw away lines like, “make yourself into a fish someone would love to catch”.  She brings a light and warmth to the book that otherwise has a very masculine tone. 

Campbell Mattinson weaves a lyrical narrative reminiscent of Dalton and Winton.  The short clipped sentences and often disjointed conversations took a little getting used to and may not be universally enjoyed. However I did feel that the style of writing was appropriate for the voice of Jon and added to the feeling of confusion and trauma that a young child in his position must experience. 

We Were Not Men is an emotive read, and I feel that these characters will definitely stay with me. 

Thank you for the opportunity to read and review this novel.
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When I read the blurb I thought this book sounded interesting and would be a good book to read.  And it started off okay but kind of went down hill from there.  I didn't really like the way it was written, the language was a bit clipped for my liking and in the end it just started to annoy me so I am afraid I just couldn't finish it.

I may pick it up again in the future but for now I can't say too much about it as I didn't actually finish it!
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There is some seriously heavy content within these pages. We Were Not Men tackles death, grief, love, and unexpected family with incredible honesty and exposed nerve endings. The writing was poetic, emoting more than explaining, and most of the settings, especially those on the farm or in the water, were vivid and realistic.

Unfortunately, Campbell Mattinson's writing style just didn't work for me. It felt like the characters never actually completed a sentence; they spoke in metaphors and similes with no context and somehow they all understood each other despite the stroke victim vibe of all of their conversations. The complicated love triangle wasn't surprising - if there's never a comprehensible conversation then no one knows where they stand - but it was confusing. Carmelina didn't have much of a role or even a personality so the twin's obsession didn't make a lot of sense. By the end, I was so ready for this story to be over because the incomplete phrases and sentences were breaking my brain.
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Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for this ARC in return for an honest review.

We Were Not Men by Campbell Mattinson is a story of love and loss. Twins Jon & Eden lose their parents at a young age and are raised by their eccentric grandmother. They soon begin swimming competitively and following in their mothers footsteps. 

This story is about the bond between twins and how young children deal with losing their parents. 

The writing was very different and gave the book a different feel to other novels I have read. It took a few chapters to get used to it but overall I enjoyed the writing style as well as the story.
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I totally enjoyed this fantastic new coming of age fiction. Twins brothers survive a horrible accident that kills there parents, changing the boys lives forever. This is a book filled with trauma, sadness and grief, a slow burn that will leave you an emotional wreck.
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We Were Not Men explores the idea that we are not purely made of the experiences we accumulate, and the power of family to overcome adversity.

It tells the story of twin brothers who lose both parents in a tragic accident, and are forced to live with their quirky, drunk grandmother. The boys are obsessed with swimming and are working towards making it to the Olympics.

The book perfectly captures the Australian obsession with competitive swimming, regularly recapping moments of swimming glory from Olympics past. The descriptions and action sequences of the boys' swimming are amazing, and some of the most powerful and emotive parts of the book, as is the relationship of this small family, doing their best through adversity.

There is a real, beating heart to this book, and none of the scenarios feel forced or unnatural. The depictions of family life, with its familiarity, emotion and change all give the reader a satisfied feeling that you are witnessing something personal. 

This is a thoroughly enjoyable read, full of heart and hope.
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Lush descriptions, quirky characters, and a Melbourne/regional Victoria setting—this is another book that I think some may really enjoy but ultimately wasn't for me.

Jon and Eden are twin brothers who are in a car accident with their parents. They survive, but their parents don't. Taken in by their step-grandmother, Bobbie, the boys grow older, swim competitively, and ultimately fall for the same girl.

I liked the idea of the story, and was really into the first 40 pages or so. It's told in a short, fragmented style which won't be for everyone. But I started to lose interest early on, possibly because the dialogue and the thoughts of this young boy and his brother were too unbelievable.

It's actually pretty tough to write young characters well, because you can't imbue them with what you know as an adult. I found myself raising my eyebrows *a lot* at these grand observations by a 9 year old. Also, no one speaks more than a handful of words at a time, which I understand was the style, but I don't think it works when the main characters are children.

Bobbie was funny at first, always spouting off a random saying, but by the end I was ready for her to just speak in a full sentence that made sense. I did really enjoy the swimming bits, which is good, because there are a lot of them. It made sense to me that these boys who lost so much would throw themselves into a sport so aggressively.

As for the big romance and betrayal, again I think this really struggled from a believability factor of what a budding friendship between two primary school children looks like and how it evolves into young love.

Mattinson is clearly a talented writer, so I would read something else he writes, but I wouldn't pick this one up again.
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Sometimes I resent having to give every book a star rating.. This book is somewhere between a two and a 10. It is lyrically written, evoking the places it is set perfectly. Those places are local to me, and i do love a book set in Victoria. The relationships are brilliant and true. Bobbie is brilliant.

On the minus side Jon does not talk like a 9 year old. Why does Carmilita have the effect she has? Am I just reading this at too much of a surface level.
This would be a brilliant book club or high school literature novel. It was not the best choice for me, restless and sad, during the last part of another lockdown with holidays cancelled and masks on. But when I tried to interrogate why, I think the answer comes down to - this is an uncomfortable books, taht will raise some interesting but not easy questions.

Thanks NetGalley, for the e-Arc in exchange for  an honest review.
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We Were Not Men is a coming of age book about twin brothers, Jon and Eden set in Victoria - the suburb Newport and the country area of Flowerdale.  After a terrible accident their nine year old lives are transformed and they search for who they are and to come to grips with all they have to face. While swimming becomes a central focus it is their emotionally embedded competitiveness that embroils their lives both in and out of the water. While fast moving it was at times a bit too much - very graphic pictures are thrown at the reader as emotions spill over.
This is a very intense story written in a dramatic style using a lot of short, brief sentences and sometimes just words - almost poetic but also like an impressionistic painting using words -
disjointed and disturbing! 
This is an incredible debut novel that is indeed on par with novels written byTrent Dalton and Sofie Laguna.

Thank you to Netgalley and publisher HarperCollins Australia for a copy to read and review.
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This is a beautifully written story of twin brothers and their grandmother coping with loss and getting on with life after tragedy. Jon and Eden Hardacre are 9yo when they are in a car crash which kills their parents. Their step grandmother Bobbie, also recently widowed becomes their carer. The boys are champion swimmers and there’s a lot of sporting references(many of which I didn’t get!). Jon is the narrator of the story and the early part of the novel seems very true to a young boys perception. The story follows them through the next 8 years or so. I found it hard to stop reading. Bobbie is a wonderful character, she is central to the book for me. Some of the other smaller characters are also nicely done. I was often thinking of Barracuda as I was reading although it is completely different. A good read even if you’re not into swimming or sport like me.
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This book is a treasure, love jumps from every page in a superb storyline! Twins Jon and Eden are nine years old as their journey commences with heartbreaking tragedy and upheaval. A brilliant story unfolds, Jon and Eden are in the care of their step-grandmother Bobbie, she’s struggling herself with the loss of her husband Jack.
Seen through the eyes of Jon, we follow the boys as they leave their home in Newport to live on Bobbie’s farm at Flowerdale, over an hour away. Jon and Eden develop their love of swimming, it’s their one constant and is relatable to their mum. Hours are spent in the farm creek or canals, their talent could take them to the Olympic Games.
Bobbie is unpredictable with a quirky side that covers her own battles, alcohol is her friend. Bobbie’s neighbour Werner shows warmth and guidance, he’s an excellent male role model and cements himself as a reliable source of comfort and strength. 
Jon and Eden rely heavily on each other as they grow emotionally and physically and learn to trust and know the difference between boyhood and adult love. Jon develops feelings for his school friend Carmelina, but discovering her with Eden leaves a rift and their bond is broken, Jon escapes to be alone at the farmhouse.

This is an intensely emotional debut novel from Campbell Mattinson, an intriguing journey that tugs at the heartstrings! It’s fantastic that Mattinson has shared a bit of his own childhood and life events, woven into the story of Jon and Eden.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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We Were Not Men is a coming of age story set in Victoria following 9 year old twin boys Jon and Eden. The book starts with a tragic family accident that we then watch the boys learn to live with. Swimming is used as a coping mechanism as they process events and train for the Olympics.  

I loved the characters in this book from the twins to Bobbie their grandmother who is dealing with alcoholism while trying to raise them. The landscape and use of the wilderness was written beautifully. It was a bit of a slow burn that reminded me of Markus Zusak's Bridge of Clay.  

There were some parts of the story that felt a little disjointed. But overall an enjoyable read, certainly heart wrenching at times, that has made me think of this family a long time after putting it down.
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I took my time reading WE WERE NOT MEN by Campbell Mattinson because the blurb made me think this was a story I’d want to savour and contemplate, and I was right. 

This is a coming-of-age story about 9 year old twin brothers, Jon and Eden, who survive the accident that results in the death of their parents. Told from Jon’s point of view, we begin the journey of trying to move on from physical and emotional trauma; there is no going back, but the future is uncertain. There is much sorrow and sadness and grief to be processed, and although there is a thread of humour running throughout, I still found myself crying over a book. Gah!  

I really enjoyed the writing. I felt the story moved along well, and I appreciated that at times, I felt I was part of the action, and other times, just an observer.  If you’re up for an emotional read, give this one a go.
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