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Pobby And Dingan
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Ben Rice makes a strong claim to be a leader of the new generation of writers.' obert McCrum, The Observer

About the Author

Ben Rice was born in Devon in 1972. He read English at Newcastle University and Wadham College, Oxford. He lives in London.

Reviews

Little Kellyanne Williamson has fallen ill, seemingly in mourning for her lost friends, Pobby and Dingan. Of course, everyone in the town of Lightning Ridge, New South Wales, knows that Pobby and Dingan are imaginary, including Kellyanne's family. But her ineffectual dad volunteers to go looking for them at the mine where he works, scuttling to find opals, and gets accused of "ratting" on someone else's claimDwhich costs him dearly in this dirt-poor town. Then, surprisingly himself, Kellyanne's heretofore exasperated brother takes up the cause, and soon he has persuaded many of the townsfolk to search for the lost friends as well. Through this heartbreaking little fable, first novelist Rice shows "what it is to believe in something which is hard to see, [and] to keep looking for something which is totally hard to find." The novel could have been treacly, but Rice instead delivers a lesson in faith and humility in tough, sinewy, wholly unsentimental prose. This could well attract more than just literary readers.DBarbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Booksellers love an easy-to-sell `stocking stuffer' or gift book for the holiday season which they can put into customers' hands, recommending it unreservedly. English author Ben Rice provides just that with his exquisitely pithy, amusing and touching tale of family commitment, grief and mystery in outback Lightning Ridge. Young Kellyanne Williamson is known and loved around town. Everyone indulges her belief in Pobby and Dingan - her two imaginary friends who accompany her in everything she does. To her they are very real, with places set for them at the table for every meal. The Williamson family's world is turned upside down, however, when Pobby and Dingan disappear; father Rex is accused of `ratting' on another miner's claim; and Kellyanne, grief-stricken, gets sicker and sicker. It's left to young Ashmol Williamson to rally the town and take the search for his sister's imaginary friends into his own hands. Fantasy to some is reality to others. Who is to say which is which? Kellyanne's story is told in the first person through Ashmol's eyes, in a style reminiscent of the young Frank McCourt's narrative in Angela's Ashes. Word-of-mouth will almost certainly ensure big sales of Pobby and Dingan. Exuding charm, this contemporary Australian fable is guaranteed to tug the heartstrings of even the most cynical of readers. Scott Whitmont is the owner of Lindfield Bookshop. C. 2000 Thorpe-Bowker and contributors

In his taut debut novel, a fable about how dreams can ennoble life, Rice uses words sparingly to show that even ordinary people can behave heroically to help those they love. He evokes the small town of Lightning Ridge, Australia's opal capital, and its eccentric residents, as the atmospheric background to a story celebrating the need for tolerance of individual idiosyncrasies. Despite bizarre characters like Fat Walt, who owns the "house-made-completely-from-bottles," and Domingo the castle builder, Ashmol Williamson believes that his younger sister, eight-year-old Kellyanne, is an exceptionally peculiar "fruitloop." After all, her best and only friends, Pobby and Dingan, are imaginary. While Kellyanne shares her "lollies" and Violet Crumble chocolate bars with her fantasy friends, the ever skeptic Ashmol makes sure to express his disapproval by "tutting" between gulps of his Mellow Yellow. Yet when Kellyanne's health begins to decline shortly after her miner father "loses" her "fairy-friends" at his opal claim, narrator Ashmol sets out on his "chopper" (a bicycle with cardboard attached to the spokes) to organize a search party. Hoping that his sister will eventually find Pobby and Dingan herself if she sees that other people think (or pretend) they're real, Ashmol pedals from bars to bowling clubs, announcing his purpose and posting signs. The next day, good-natured friends and neighbors set about searching under bushes and around trees, but their attempts prove futile as Kellyanne's health continues to deteriorate. Desperate to save his sister, Ashmol finally realizes that only he can find Pobby and Dingan by believing in their existence. Just as Peter Pan entreats the audience to clap if they believe in fairies, Rice's touching tale asks the reader as well as the citizens of Lightning Ridge to have faith in the invisible. 50,000 first printing; BOMC alternate. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

"Quirky, moving and completely unexpected. It will charm all but the most dedicated cynic" * Sunday Telegraph *
"From its bold premise to its brave ending, Pobby and Dingan is full of surprises" * The Times *
"Quirky, moving and completely unexpected. It will charm all but the most determined cynic" * Daily Telegraph *
"With Pobby and Dingan, Ben Rice makes a strong claim to be a leader of the new generation. This novel marks one of those debuts that may well turn out to have been of the greatest significance" -- Robert McCrum * Observer *
"A delicate fable about faith-it shows the search for the impossible to be both touching and necessary" * The Sunday Times *

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