Book Club Discussion – Underground by Andrew McGahan

Imagine an Australia transformed by the War on Terror; Canberra destroyed in a nuclear attack; Australia in the grips of a police state where civil liberties have been suspended; suspect nationalities have been impounded "and worse – no one wants to play cricket with us any more". 

This is exactly the scenario proposed by Andrew McGahan in Underground, the book chosen by the Wednesday Book Club.  The group thought the subject matter interesting but not particularly well written.  The plot did draw the reader in and although it was far fetched at times it contained an overall plausible theme.  The bungles which occurred were believable.  The group did not think the destruction of Canberra was believable.  The group all agreed that the Prime Minister in the book, Bernard James, was a parody of John Howard – some even thought he was a mirror image. His brother, Leo James, is not an Australian Everyman.  He is a "chancer", a political, get rich quick guy but not a "decent guy".  The Group felt that Leo’s thoughts on the "Australia that was" at the end of the book was very well written.  The view may not be completely realistic but aspects of the Australian outlook were well depicted; that Leo’s thoughts on the parallel of society and the Roman Empire are very perceptive and do give him some decency. The discussion then moved to current views on multiculturalism and the immigration policy.  The group believes media over emphasise the amount of boat people as the total percentage of immigrants coming into the country.  Comments were made regarding immigration becoming a campaign issue for the next election.  The group also discussed the fact that mainstream TV is always in English or has English voiceover rather than being subtitled so that bilingual people can understand.