A review of Datsunland by Stephen Orr

Reviewed by Carl Delprat

by Stephen Orr
Wakefield Press
2017, 294pp, ISBN: 9781743054758

This selection of short stories concluding with the major work “Datsunland” is beautifully written by a literary craftsman. They take the reader through and within the landscape of South Australia’s unique ecosystem, into places tinged and contaminated with saturnine and fateful conclusions. As I searched through the pages I found myself trapped within a boiled down distillation of this state’s home-style miseries and heartbreaks. These are stories rich with dried out dirt, crow carcases, drifting sands, decaying towns, broken and disoriented inhabitants, and sunburnt structures.

Stephan Orr is brilliant with the darkness and when I finished each short story the book was then closed for a few days. It can be a lot to take, as this is disturbing material and there is a lot of unpleasantness to digest in one sitting? Did I enjoy it?  No. Did I appreciate it? Definitely…a big yes. I wonder what the South Australian Tourist Board would make of it?  The book left me wondering if this is what that southern state has left to offer after Adelaide and the Barossa have been done, Stephan’s eye and pen have left an indelible message that will stay with me forever.

Datsunland took me a long time to read, maybe because of its uniqueness. I was compelled to return, much like returning to look at some tragic site of ruin or a place where a ghost of sadness dwelt. It was Orr’s craftsmanship that I wished to watch and appreciate. The subject matter soon became predictable and is not my choice for entertainment. However Orr crafts stories so well that after a weeks absence I found myself back at the stagnant well and prepared to taste another draught and to meet Datsunland‘s disturbing characters that I knew would infiltrate and then mess with my mind.

I well know that life contains these episodes and perhaps I’m too sensitive for such a string of such disturbances? Orr remains true to his genre all the way to the major work of the book’s title, and here he performs his masterstroke. “Datsunland’s” 113 pages of mastery left me once again ensnared within another pitiless world. Orr’s capability left me both awestruck and devastated.

About the reviewer: Carl Delprat is a prolific storyteller. His home is the Australian coastal city of Newcastle, New South Wales. Find his books at: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/CarlDelprat