Ultimately, it’s a story of struggle with a sweet ending.
As the second born son to a Tasmanian farming family, Robert Moore was second in line in the family pecking order. It wasn’t until his older brother came out as gay in the 1970s and was consequently disowned, that Moore became first in line and began being groomed to eventually take over the family farm.
What the family didn’t know was that Robert Moore was also gay.
Pecking Order is a fictionalised account of the author’s own story, reflecting on being a closeted teenager in an era when homosexuality was both illegal and considered to be a family’s shame.
It’s a very straightforward, flat story with no highs or lows in the action, but it’s a tale that gives a first-hand insight into the life and times of those living on the down-low.
Central character Ross Mayne and his dormitory pal Michael, begin an illicit affair at their boarding school while Ross tries to come to terms with his own desires and the expectations of his family and community, particularly in light of the scandal surrounding his brother.
The story more or less begins with the family’s reaction to the older brother’s outing. We never meet the brother or get to witness his earlier relationship to family members, so it’s difficult to feel for the young man without his history being established first. Likewise, we enter Ross and Michael’s affair already in progress with no knowledge of how it began or the difficulties they encountered establishing the connection.
This lack of history, which works against making an emotional connection with the characters, is endemic across the novel. Ross supresses his feelings to the reader as much as he does to his fellow characters. What should be a powerfully emotional story of homophobia, self-acceptance and the need for love becomes a tale that merely hints at the underlying emotions without truly exploring them.
There are no twists to the plot, but some interesting family dynamics keep the story flowing, combined with the clandestine moments that Ross and Michael spend together. Ultimately, it’s a story of struggle with a sweet ending that creeps up suddenly but provides hope for Ross’ future.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Distributed by: Amazon Australia
Released: May 2019