Read shadowboxing by Tony Birch Online


Shadow Boxing is a collection of ten linked stories in the life of a boy growing up in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy in the 1960s. A beautifully rendered time capsule, it captures a period of decay,turmoil and change through innocent unblinking eyes....

Title : shadowboxing
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 575739
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 108 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

shadowboxing Reviews

  • Michael Livingston
    2019-03-13 10:07

    A stunning book that defies easy categorisation - is it a novel or short stories? Fiction or memoir? Whichever, it's a brief and powerful tale of growing up in a poor, difficult family in inner-city Melbourne in the 60s and 70s. The city leaps off the page and the characters are breathtaking - the linked stories paint a broader picture than a simple memoir or novel could have done and some (The Lesson and The Butcher's Wife) are among the most memorable shorts I've read. The writing is concise and spare, with no punches pulled. Highly, highly recommended.

  • Mary
    2019-03-08 12:53

    Fantastic! This is gritty, nostalgic, wretched stuff unapologetically capturing a vanished era. “It’s full of no-hopers, dagoes, and Abos. Which one are you?” I’m sure my father was asked something similar when he immigrated to Fitzroy in the 60s.

  • Kylie Purdie
    2019-03-13 17:16

    I read this and Birch's other collection of short stories - Father's Day - in one day. That is how compelling I found his story telling.I was lead to these books via an interview Richard Fidler did with Birch on his radio show Conversations. You can find the interview here - interview is well worth listening to as it highlights the link between Birch's stories and his own experience growing up in Melbourne in the 1960's. In appears that in many stories it is a case of change the names to protect the (not so) innocent!The stories in Shadowboxing are all linked through the main character Michael. He describes his life growing up in inner Melbourne in the 1960's. Each story shows a snapshot of growing up on tough streets during tough times. Using his own experiences lends Birch's stories an air of authenticity. The reader is transported to the time and place of the story, sharing the joys and fears of the characters and allowing the reader for a short time to live in a completely different time.

  • Bec
    2019-03-14 13:56

    In Shadowboxing, the life of a son is chronicled through ten short stories. Picking through his memories, we follow Michael from childhood through to becoming a father himself. Suburban Melbourne is the living backdrop of the pieces, and the changing scenery is as important as the evolution of the characters themselves. Whether you've lived in Melbourne a day, a lifetime, or never stepped foot on Smith St in your life, you'll feel grounded in the pages of Shadowboxing. The spaces are as real in history as for the reader. When the Red House is demolished the loss is personal. Each insult, each punch, each silence is felt beyond the pages. I moved to Melbourne nearly ten years ago. I didn't see the Smith St of Shadowboxing, and yet it seems as though I've walked it myself, that I know both the street and its characters intimately as their lives spill out of rented houses and onto the now familiar pavement.Read my full review here.

  • Pamela
    2019-03-19 14:04

    Set in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy in the Sixties, this is a superb book, sent to me by Goodreads to review, crafted from ten meshed short stories, about a boy called Michael growing up into a sensitive and forgiving man. The stories cover themes such as domestic violence and revenge (The Butcher’s Wife), back street abortions (A Disposable Good), loss and bereavement (Ashes), mental illness (Redemption), delinquency and crime (The Sea of Tranquillity), and more, grittily set against a background of grinding poverty, decay and urban renewal, plus dependence on alcohol. So superbly written and evocative were they that I had to remind myself regularly that I was reading fiction and not facts that had been made into a documentary film playing in my head.Michael does not forget his past and I will not forget this most brilliant Australian author: Tony Birch.

  • Lauren
    2019-02-25 16:21

    A great fast-paced read. Shadowboxing brought back memories of growing up in Fitzroy in the 70's. Although I was only little I remember streets disappearing and the ugly high rises emerging. Tony Birch has captured the atmosphere with the interconnecting stories about Michael and his family. I was impressed by his mother's reaction in "A Disposable Good".

  • M
    2019-03-14 12:16

    A compelling, thought provoking, nostalgic read.

  • Callum
    2019-03-07 17:08

    Tony Birch's writing is fluent and powerful in this collection of ten linked short stories. Each short vividly captures a snapshot of Michael Byrne's upbringing and adult life in Fitzroy and surrounding Melbourne suburbs from the 1960's. As other reviewers have mentioned, Birch manages to seamlessly and repeatedly transport you to a particular moment in time some half a century previous. Having also grown up in Melbourne, it was great to experience an excerpt of Fitzroy and other local suburbs from that period of time.It was a compelling reading experience. I found that the linked short stories allowed Birch to eloquently capture the significant changes to both environments (particularly the urban environment in 'The Bulldozer') and characters over a span of several decades, whilst still remaining succinct and poignant in style. I felt that I knew Michael's world intimately in a matter of pages.My favourite's were 'The Lesson', 'The Butcher's Wife', 'The Bulldozer' and 'The Sea of Tranquillity'. These stories had a lasting impact on me and I would definitely like to revisit Shadowboxing at a later date and also read some more of Birch's work.On a side note, I would be interested to find out how much of Birch's own personal experiences were portrayed in Shadowboxing. I read somewhere that it was partly based on his own upbringing, which is not surprising given the authentic, autobiographical feel of these short stories.

  • Greg
    2019-02-26 14:08

    I'm not a big fan of modern short-story writing, although I have enjoyed collections by writers such as Raymond Carver and Tim Winton. I was attracted to Shadowboxing because it is set in Fitzroy, the suburb that my mother grew up in, albeit in a different era.Shadowboxing is a series of linked stories about Michael Byrne, a young boy growing up in Melbourne's working-class inner suburbs of Fitzroy and Richmond. Michael is the son of an abusive father, who is a renowned drunk and brawler. The stories are in chronological sequence, and follow a narrative arc that starts with Michael as a very young boy terrified of his father and follows his transition to adulthood and a very different father-son relationship. This narrative arc makes the book read very much like an episodic novel, with re-occurring characters and events that are referred to and have implications in later stories. I particularly enjoyed The Bulldozer, The Sea of Tranquility and Ashes, all of which touch on aspects of working-class life in a credible and heartfelt fashion. All of the stories engage the reader's interest and Birch's characters are empathetic and believable. He resists the urge to demonise Michael's father, which makes the final story much more effective. Shadowboxing is a slice of Melbourne's history and social life that rings true and is highly readable and rewarding.

  • Mehdi Miri Disfani
    2019-03-16 13:53

    An easy book to read which I enjoyed reading for two main reasons. Firstly it gave me as a migrant (who has been living here for 6 years) a lot of information about the history and older days of one of suburbs that I go through everyday; Fitzory. I feel more connected to Fitzory and Melbourne after reading this book. Secondly the book shows how our society has changed with the time passing. It is not only the buildings and streets which have changed, but also the health system, family relationships, position of women and many other things have changed with time passing.The book was also moving as it goes through the traumatic life experiences of the protagonist and his family. It is written in a journalistic reporting format which makes it as I mentioned an easy read, but falls short in giving you the pleasure of reading a master peace or anything like that. I also did not like to flat style (monotonic) of writing.I highly recommend it for anybody who is new to Melbourne, does not know much about its past and want to have a better connection with this beautiful city.

  • Sally
    2019-03-18 16:19

    I won this book in the Goodreads Giveaway. Shadowboxing has scenes of harrowing domestic violence. It happens frequently, is brutal and people even watch it happen on the street. Michael himself is unsure when he hears the sound of someone being abused if it’s in his house or beyond.Women are treated absolutely appallingly in these tough working-class neighbourhoods. Michael learns about abortions being carried out locally and the desperate situations women find themselves in. His mother explains to Michael that people have to take certain measures of the men they have to endure. It seems to be a time almost devoid of passion or love between spouses. Michael is shocked to hear his father refer to his old home as ‘a house of love’, somewhere full of women drinking tea of a night and telling stories. It has now been brought to the ground like many others with a bulldozer. A rough, sometimes shocking story, well worth a read. Highly Recommended.

  • Anthony Eaton
    2019-03-09 14:01

    This series of linked short stories, set in the suburbs of Melbourne across the latter half of the 20th century, is a touching, moving, and at times gut-wrenchingly gritty insight into the struggles of the Urban working class in Australia across the course of the last 50 years or so.Birch, who has studied in Urban issues, clearly knows his material, and explores the shattered lives of his characters as they struggle as much against the city itself as against their own flaws and weaknesses. The first story in the collection, 'The Red House' is a perfect example of the short story form, especially in a linked collection such as this; it frames the lives of the characters and sets a solid foundation for all that is to follow, as well as providing a remarkable insight into the lives and issues of a fast-fading time in Australian history.Well worth reading.

  • Megz
    2019-03-05 14:13

    Shadowboxing is a collection of short stories of a childhood in the 60/70's of Fitzroy's wrong side of the tracks, Australia. I read one story at a time, put it down, and picked it up a few days or a week later. And continued. It contained a common link of a boy and his family. The bully-boxer of a father spending time and funds in the pub, while the mother did what she could to keep them a hairs-breadth off the poverty line. It demonstrated what youth was like before TV and social media became the way of life. It showed the bad and ugly. It showed family and a boy's adult relationship with his father.An entertaining read of short stories that didn't allow for emotional attachment. But did leave a mark on the mind when completed. 3.5 stars.

  • Michaela Shea
    2019-03-10 12:21

    I feel guilty about wrecking the average rating of this book by giving it a four, but I'm a hard marker. This is a really good book. You are really transported to 1960s working class Melbourne. I like how it's kind of linear but it jumps around as chapters are about specific stories, rather than a specific time. The Butcher's Wife is a stand out and it's hard to believe we are talking about less than 50 years ago. It's a reminder that Australia is still a very young country (from a white perspective I guess), and we are only just stepping into our long pants.OK. I'll give it five stars. I'm a sucker for peer pressure.

  • Pam Saunders
    2019-03-18 09:20

    Another book set in the area where I live but this time the era is the 1960's when the suburb, Fitzroy, was being transformed by the Housing Commission and it's towers. Michael is the eldest in his small family, his mother gentle and caring but battling the abuse from her violent husband. In this she is not alone, as Tony Birch vividly describes other women who live in the street and their experience with domestic violence too. Micheal learns to survive on the street and in the families new accommodation in the towers. Eventually the move to live with his grandmother and her 'boarder' who provide a basis for all to live in a more positive way. A book about power and strength.

  • Angie
    2019-03-03 09:09

    I really enjoyed this book but it's hard to explain why.This book was a very almost "pretty" sort of book. Pretty in a dark almost depressing and almost quite ordinary but not dull kind of way. It wasn't beautiful or extremely exciting or super emotional (though it was quite sad in parts) or gripping or extremely well written. It didn't have the superb qualities that most of my favourite books have but I still loved it. And I can't quite explain why.It was very light, both in size and content. Usually I don't like short stories at all, but I did enjoy this book.

  • Jacqui
    2019-03-18 10:01

    Shadowboxing was an amazing journey through a place that I now call home. Exploring the suburbs of Melbourne it is easy to see the history that has taken place there. Birch travels further by not only exploring the history of Melbourne, but also inviting us into a story where obstacles are overcome and lives changed. This book changed my view completely of Melbourne landmarks, by giving the city a life through story.

  • Carol
    2019-02-18 16:59

    These deceptively simple stories take us on an unflinching and unsentimental journey into the poverty, violence, tragedy and dislocation that pervaded the lives of so many families in inner Melbourne in the 1960s. Told through the eyes of Michael, as he grows from boy to man, we are given glimpses of domestic violence, back-yard abortions, alcohol abuse, juvenile crime and mental illness as well as the redemptive qualities of family bonds. Well worth reading.

  • Alan Atkinson
    2019-03-09 09:08

    One of the best books I have read all year. The stories of a childhood with a drunken father and a mother who stayed are compelling, with beautifully drawn characters. We observe as the boy observes, grows, faces challenges, witnesses his area being demolished. One story, The Lesson, has an impact as strong as Lord of the Flies. Brilliant.

  • Karren
    2019-03-08 12:58

    I read this book for a book club that I belong to,so I wasn't expecting too much. I surprisingly enjoyed it. It's a bit of a tragedy though, a collection of stories about the life of Michael, who grows up in Fitzroy, an inner suburb of Melbourne. It was about growing up in hardship and Michael's relationships with his family and friends. Touching also

  • Adele Corazzini
    2019-03-14 13:05

    I am not surprised that shadowboxing is another exceptional read. Tony does his writing with such dexterity that reading his stories makes me reflect on why Australian authors are so significant in our reading circle.

  • Carolyn
    2019-03-17 13:04

    Short stories based in Melbourne. In Fitzroy! Hey, I've been there! All really "one story" but with chronological leaps. Poverty, abuse, hunger, worry. Working class, '60s Melbourne, rapidly changing. A very fast read, but very poignant.

  • Wendy
    2019-03-15 12:09

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Each story linked successfully with next until I felt that I'd read Michael's whole life story. I would've enjoyed reading more of Michael's story but this was enough to introduce me to an excellent author.

  • Fatema Johera Ahmed
    2019-03-06 13:14

    And so I finally finish Tony Birch. I do not say this with a sigh of relief for there is a quality about this YAL that is reminiscent of Bridges of Triangle - that sense of futility, of movement without progress - that is much like life itself.

  • Ben
    2019-02-27 10:14


  • Jennifer Mcbain
    2019-03-01 10:54

    Local. Some stories well written. Got a bit bored dusting it-sadly.

  • Loki
    2019-03-18 08:53

    A tale of growing up in the inner suburbs of Melbourne, set at around the same time and place that my father was doing just that. Moving and personal.

  • Kelli
    2019-03-03 09:11

    Beautifully written

  • Paul
    2019-02-20 15:15

    I received a free copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway.I really liked this book. Well=crafted and written, I found it entirely credible and engaging throughout.

  • Sally Koetsveld
    2019-03-01 09:14

    A great peek into the world of the inner suburbs and the social system of the 60's.