The True Story of Butterfish – Book Review


by Nick Earls

ISBN: 9781741666335

Published: 1/7/09

We all ‘think’ we know what we want but it often takes a wake up call to really ‘understand’ what is best for us.

Curtis Holland is an average guy who has had extraordinary luck come his way.  He and his friend Derek Frisk had a band called Butterfish, which went from local to global.  With that came all the rockstar trappings, travel, money, parties, celebrity and pressure.  After their 3rd album fails they are dropped by their record label and the band dissolves.  Derek stays in LA to keep up the rockstar image but with some relief , Curtis gladly leaves that life and plans to work on producing other musician’s work. So now he is back in Brisbane, has no band, his father died while he was on tour and so did his marriage.  Moving into a suburban home with a studio in the back garden, disguised as a granny flat, Curtis takes a breath, opens a beer and adds up the cost of his absurd rockstar life.

When Annaliese Winter floats down his driveway looking for her dog, Curtis is rattled by his fascination with the complex 16 years old.  As he gets to know the rest of her family, 14 year old brother Mark and their mother Kate, he find himself drawn to them and it seems his average street, in an average suburb is suddenly less ordinary.  Curtis isn’t sure what he can contribute to the relationship developing with his new neighbours.  He is still jet lagged from his rockstar life and the truth is that he hasn’t dealt with the loss of his father, his marriage or his band.  Together with his brother Patrick, Curtis tries to reconnect with their father and by going through his belongings, they uncover much they didn’t know and much they’ll never know.  A fast and furious visit from Derek drags up further regrets but also offers Curtis an alternate view of himself.

Curtis’ return to reality explores the relationship with the place we call home and the need for balance in life.  Returning home stirs up history of our time before we left but also gives us a safe place to review where we’ve been.  Rediscovering what is important in our lives sounds simple but the fact that you’ve lost sight of it means that havoc was wreaked and there is much cleaning up to be done.

I particularly liked Curtis’ journey to reconnect with his father.  Exploring the idea that after we die we are reduced to a sum of our stuff and what we have chosen to share with others.  It reinforces the lessen to be careful what you leave behind because you may leave an impression that you would be disappointed by.   Perhaps we should all engage a trusted friend, who in the case of our demise, will remove those things we wouldn’t want our family to find.

It was also interesting seeing Curtis and Patrick trying to resettle themselves after losing their last parent.  I heard someone mention once – and I wish I could remember who, so I could credit them – that we never truly grow up while we still have our parents.  That we complete our development when we have to face a world without our parents in it.   Despite the sadness of losing their father, I was heartened to see them both grow a little taller from the experience.

I really enjoyed ‘The True Story of Butterfish’ and its simple message about discovering what is important in our lives.  Although I read it over a very busy week, I found myself heaving an audible sign of relief each time I was able to pick it up again.

Nick Earls has a knack for making average into extraordinary and he’s done it again with The True Story of Butterfish. It is full of Australian markers but with relief, is free of those Australian stereotypes and cliches that make me cringe, no shrimps on barbies or crocodile dundees to be seen.

Curtis’ experience with the illusion of celebrity life highlights that at home we are all the same.  That before ‘they’ were celebrities they were average people just like us and that in reality they still are.  He sets his story in an average house, in an average street, in an average suburb, which could translate to any suburb in the developed world.  By so doing, he reaches out to all us average folk, sitting on our average couches, doing washing, cooking, cleaning or like me typing a review on my laptop with a 4 year old tucked up beside me giggling away at ‘The Little Rascals’ on DVD and makes our lives seem a lot less average and in fact, quite extraordinary.

Thank you Nick Earls for The True Story of Butterfish.

Posted on 3 August '09 by , under Reviews.

One Comment to “The True Story of Butterfish – Book Review”

#1 Posted by andy (23.08.14 at 01:30 )