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Rush Oh!

Rush Oh!

By Shirley Barrettpaperback25 August 2015
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The captivating debut novel from the winner of the Camera D'Or

"Hugely funny and peopled with a cast of characters I came to treasure like my own friends, Rush Oh! reminded me why I love reading." Hannah Kent, bestselling author of Burial Rites

When Mary Davidson, the eldest daughter of a whaling family in Eden, New South Wales, sets out to chronicle the particularly difficult season of 1908, the story she tells is poignant and hilarious, filled with drama and misadventure.

It's a season marked not only by the sparsity of whales and the vagaries of weather, but also by the arrival of John Beck, an itinerant whale man with a murky past, on whom Mary promptly develops an all-consuming crush. But hers is not the only romance to blossom amidst the blubber...

Swinging from Mary's hopes and disappointments, both domestic and romantic, to the challenges that beset their tiny whaling operation, Rush Oh! is a celebration of an extraordinary episode in Australian history, when a family of whalers formed a fond, unique allegiance with a pod of frisky Killer whales - and in particular, a Killer whale named Tom.

"vivid prose ... gives savour to a highly enjoyable and unusual yarn" Sydney Morning Herald

"It is Mary who you will miss like a sister ... when the final page is turned." The Australian


  • Title: Rush Oh!
  • Author: Shirley Barrett
  • Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
  • ISBN: 9781743535943
  • Length: 2.7 centimetre
  • Width: 15.5 centimetre
  • Languages: English
  • Format: PaperBack
  • Category: Historical fiction , General Fiction
  • Publication Date: 25/08/2015
  • Pages: 368
  • Height: 23.1 centimetre
  • Weight: 0.462 keg
  • Country of publication: Australia


14/09/2015 5:34:26 PM - Helen
Rush out to buy
It has been a while since I’ve been so absorbed by a book like ‘Rush Oh!’ – such a mixture of emotions as you take a look into Mary’s life. One minute I’m laughing at Mary’s attempts to feed the whalers and next I’m remembering the nativity of first love, and then willing the whales to escape the chase even though this impacts the fortunes of the Davidson’s and a father trying to provide for his family. I found the whaling scenes quite difficult to read, but whaling was a part of our history and we depended on their by-products - but Shirley Barrett’s skill in writing allows the reader to sympathise with both the whales and the whalers as they battle for survival. I loved the array of characters from Two Socks to Bonnie, and if Mary had existed I would like to have been her friend. However I would have liked an epilogue – once you’ve read the book you will now why. I look forward to Shirley’s next book.

24/09/2015 9:25:18 AM - Jillian
Steady Sailing
Rush Oh! is an historical fiction piece which transports the reader to the early 1900's to follow the Davidson's whaling season and all the characters involved. Mary Davidson, our narrator and protagonist if you will, writes a memoir of the 1908 season; shedding light on the whaling industry in Australia, and the unlikely partnership with a pod of killer whales. Written in a style to mimic the time, Rush Oh! can be a tedious read at times as Mary would belabour thoughts and recounting of the events. However, the story does move along and you find yourself lost in her stories and feeling as if you had read a memoir of your own grandmother. If you enjoy period-piece fiction, Rush Oh! will be a wonderful addition to your bookshelf.

5/12/2015 8:29:12 PM - Elisabeth
Rush Oh!
This book was a light read following the life of Mary, daughter of a locally famous whaler throughout the whaling season in the early 1900s. It took me some time to become accustomed to the tone of the book, but eventually I became somewhat fond of Mary's voice as she told the tale of the season (including her asides in brackets). The idea of the killer whale pack aiding in the hunt was interesting, made more so from its basis in fact. If you have an interest in Australian fiction and/or whaling, this little novel could be something worth your time. 3/5

6/09/2015 12:57:50 PM - Felicity
A Promising First Novel
Rush Oh! tells the story of the Davidson family from the perspective of Mary, the eldest daughter. The Davidsons have been whalers at Eden in NSW for generations, however in 1908 the whales are few and far between. Mary's life is also disrupted by the arrival of former Methodist minister John Beck. Given the subject matter, this was a difficult book to read at times. Our modern understanding and sensibilities about whales make passages describing the killing of these creatures somewhat difficult, and yet it is clear that Barrett has researched the industry in detail and she captures the precarious and dangerous nature of whaling well. Her characters are engaging, including the wonderful Killer Whales that assist the whalers in their hunt, and the early 20th Century community of Eden is represented with humour and compassion. I look forward to reading more of Barrett's work as I feel she has a rare gift for making ordinary characters extraordinary.

20/09/2015 12:08:22 AM - Llianne
One star
After a slow start, and one where I thought I would never get to the end of the book, I found the story took on a new life. It was an interesting account of life and social values at the time and the changing nature of whaling.

1/09/2015 7:46:06 PM - Dean
Rush oh!
Just finished reading Rush oh and was keenly following the story of Mary Davidson's life. A strong willed girl who grows up into an equally strong woman during a tough time surrounded by whaling men. A compelling story from beginning to end.

10/09/2015 3:03:29 PM - Neil
Quirky but memorable
Rush Oh! provides a simple straight forward read. Written in the style of a memoir, Rush Oh! attempts to provide an insight into the life and yearnings of the main protagonist, a 19 year old female, in the 1900s. Using language much like a 19 year old from m the early 1900s imagine would be used, I found Rush Oh! to be an enjoyable read.

28/09/2015 8:34:48 PM - Dennis
must reading!,,
'Rush Oh!' is a must read book. The first few pages will surely hook you into this amazing book! This book is about a girl called Mary and her humorous and exciting adventures throughout her life. I quite enjoyed this book and I bet everyone else who has read it got hooked in to this book as well! ^.^

25/09/2015 7:57:04 PM - Lesley
Three stars!
This book is rich in imagery and transports you to the world of one whaling family in NSW in the 1900's. It drew you in and was a compelling read. Thoroughly enjoyed it and could not put it down

2/09/2015 7:00:09 PM - Persephone
Rush Oh!
A great novel for first time author Shirley Barrett, Rush Oh! has an extraordinary storyline, equal parts intrigue and excitement. With fantastic character development throughout the book, plus the writing itself - including its incredible depiction of the 1900’s Whaling endeavours through the eyes of protagonist Mary Davidson as she grows up - Barrett’s book is certainly a compelling read.

15/09/2015 4:37:02 PM - Yvette
Read This!
I am not usually a fan of historical fiction but from the first page Rush Oh had me hooked (pardon the fish pun!). I am a big fan of Shirley Barrett's movie work, especially her film Love Serenade and this book has the quirkiness that seems to be characteristic of her writing. I got through this book in 2 days - I literally just couldn't put it down and I was quite sad when I'd finished! The characters and places will stay with you long after you have put it down, it has made me want to plan a road trip to the Far South Coast and visit the places she so vividly describes in Rush Oh! Definitely a contender for Australian Book of 2015 in my opinion.

8/09/2015 3:26:13 PM - Emily
Inevitable Moby Dick Comparisons
But in a GOOD way! Rush Oh! had a lovely but reserved narrative voice in Mary, the daughter of a whaler. The book is a recount of one particular season, before the practice became outdated. I had heard stories of Tom the Killer before and was intrigued to see him feature so heavily in this story. I also loved the Australian setting and the nuanced language of the early 1900s. Barrett touches on many harsh realities, not only the life of the whaler, but the racism directed at the Aboriginal community of Eden and its surrounds despite their involvement as part of the whaling crews. Some of the descriptions verge on the bloodthirsty, and I felt some story arcs weren't tied up particularly nicely, but all in all a very pleasant read and a beautiful debut novel.

16/09/2015 12:23:50 AM - Natasha
Whaley Great :P
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. It's not something I would have read after looking at the cover or the blurb but I really loved it. It was clever, interesting and even educational. It even made me giggle to myself whilst on the train to work. When the story jumped between times I wasn't confused and always felt secure while reading. I loved Mary and found Louisa like my own sister, annoying! I loved the romance and the scandals as well as the information on Whales and life in the early 1900's. An all around enjoyable book that I am disappointed to have finished.

13/09/2015 6:35:27 PM - Bernadette Joy
Rush OH! started a little slowly but soon rollicked along like the Whale hunts it depicts. Written in the reserved voice of the fictional daughter of the non-fictional legendary whaler (Davidson) it gives us insight into a unique moment of history. The narrative is interwoven with extracts from newspapers at the time and gives a taste of the life the whalers lead. We also hear of the involvement of the killer whales, foremost of which was Old Tom and the unique relationship between them and the whalers. An excellent and entertaining read.

7/09/2015 2:06:49 PM - Sally
I started reading this on a day when I felt terribly depressed. The book lifted me immediately. A great book - well-written, surprising wit and a great tale. Enjoy!

7/05/2016 7:09:21 PM - Marianne
a marvellous debut novel
Rush Oh! is the first novel by Australian screenwriter, director and author, Shirley Barrett. it is based on the life of Eden whaler, George “Fearless” Davidson, although Barrett freely admits to taking liberties with known facts. Narrated by his nineteen-year-old daughter, Mary, it tells of the events of the 1908 whaling season in Twofold Bay, giving the reader a fairly comprehensive taste of the life of a whaler in the early twentieth century. As the eldest daughter of the widower, Mary is charged with taking care of her father, her Uncle Aleck and her five siblings, including the rather wilful sixteen-year-old Louisa, as well as providing meals for his whaling crew of five white men and five aboriginals. But as a young woman, Mary can’t help her own natural inclinations and her attraction to a newly arrived crew member, an ex-Methodist-minister, John Beck. But perhaps John is not quite all he seems. As Mary deals with the challenges posed by a poor whaling season, Louisa’s mercurial moods and her hopes for her own future, she finds herself in the unenviable position of possibly having done irredeemable damage to her family's only means of support. That Barrett has done extensive research is apparent on every page, as the reader learns a multitude of interesting facts about the whaling industry, about the behaviour of whales and killer whales, and the relationship between the indigenous people and killer whales. Barrett uses some marvellous descriptive prose: “My brother raised his harpoon with trembling hands. The notion of plunging such an implement into this mountain of a whale suddenly seemed ludicrous, like sticking a hatpin into an elephant….. he tossed his harpoon, but in his panicked state, it fell short and landed in the water with a dispiriting slap.” Some of Mary’s artwork is delightfully rendered by Matt Canning’s illustrations. As well as conveying the brutality and desperation that whaling entails, Barrett manages to include plenty of humour (the trip to Boyd Tower by the family, horse, cow and two dogs, one of which sits on the lovingly-made Madeira cake when the whole troupe is menaced by a broody magpie, being just one example), heartache (the loss of a brother, the estrangements within the family) and hope (Mary's longstanding faith in John Beck, and in her reunion with her sister). While the bulk of the narrative comprises Mary’s memories of 1908, the story is told from the more distant perspective of the now middle-aged Mary, living with her married sister in Ryde, and the penultimate chapter touches on the aftermath of that dramatic year, providing some resolution of questions unanswered. From something that started out as a screenplay, Barrett has created a marvellous debut novel. 4.5 stars



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