Frederick’s Coat – Alan Duff

Posted: January 21, 2014 in general fiction, Review

fredericks coatJono Ryan comes from a long line of criminals, who live outside the law but by a strict code of honour.  As a young man he continues the family tradition and is caught and sent to prison.  After he serves his time and is released, Jono vows never to go back inside and changes his life to go straight.  His new life isn’t easy though, especially when he gets sole custody of his son, Danny.  A strange kid, Danny is sensitive and possesses an incredible artistic talent, viewing the world differently to others.

Jono works hard over the years, building up his businesses while protecting Danny from the world and encouraging his artistic gift. Then Danny makes a friend, Frederick, a homeless man with a mental illness.  Frederick teaches Danny poetry and ‘gets’ him, spending hours with each other.  Then tragedy strikes and the world Jono has so carefully built come crashing down.

I’m wouldn’t reread this book but found it compelling and liked it and am glad I read it.  The characters were real, with Jono being likeable and sympathetic.  This book was a pleasant surprise, as I’d pigeonholed Alan Duff as writing books about domestic violence – as in Once Were Warriors.  Instead it showed how someone can change the life they were born into, and explored the effects of prison life on people.

Alan Duff was the driving force behind the Duffy Books in Homes scheme which aims to break the cycle of illiteracy, poverty, ager, and violence among underprivileged children by providing books for them to own.


Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

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