Book Review – The Origin of Me, Bernard Gallate

The Origin of Me

The Origin of Me, by Bernard Gallate. Imprint: Vintage (Penguin Random House Australia).

“According to family lore, exactly forty weeks after my father won the prestigious and fiercely contested GravyLog® Pet Food account for his advertising agency, I was born.”

With these words reproduced above, debut author Bernard Gallate introduces a beleaguered boy on the brink of manhood, whose efforts to conceal a burgeoning ‘genetic anomaly’ threaten to undermine his teenage years.

In The Origin of Me, Gallate’s 15-year-old narrator Lincoln Locke brings an abundance of angst, a measure of melancholy and a delightful wryness to a whimsical coming-of-age tale-with-a-twist.

The inclusion of a registration mark alongside the brand name GravyLog in that opening sentence also hints at Gallate’s playful approach to storytelling – you’ll find trademark and registration acknowledgements peppered throughout this often hilarious, sometimes shocking and frequently moving novel, alongside actual as well as fictional product and company names.

In the opening chapter, Lincoln’s first girlfriend has accidentally made contact with his genetic abnormality – and unceremoniously fled the scene, repulsed and disgusted.

Lincoln’s resultant self-loathing coincides with a significant disruption to his family life. After his parents separate, Lincoln must move into his dad’s bachelor pad on the other side of the city – away from his best mates – and commence Year 10 at an elite, exclusive and expensive new school.

The Origin of Me documents Lincoln’s struggles to adapt to the challenges his new life brings, including battling to survive close encounters with a band of bullies, dealing with academic and extracurricular successes and failures, and experiencing the uncertainty associated with forging fresh friendships.

With his secret source of great shame becoming increasingly pronounced, how can Lincoln continue to keep it concealed – especially when he is propelled on to the school swim squad and forced to wear Speedos? And what is Lincoln’s connection to the author of My One Redeeming Affliction, a nineteenth-century memoir he discovers in mysterious circumstances?

As Lincoln navigates the perils of puberty and attempts to overcome inequities and obstacles with the assistance of a band of fellow misfits, all is revealed.

Peopled with brutish bullies, an enigmatic hermit, artfully wrought minor characters and kindred spirits who make Lincoln’s troubles tolerable, The Origin of Me is a joyful reading experience from that opening sentence to the last lines.

Lincoln Locke compares favourably to other precocious heroes of contemporary coming-of-age literature, such as Colfer’s Artemis Fowl, Charlie Bucktin from Silvey’s Jasper Jones, juvenile narrator Eli Bell in Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe and even, at times, Rowling’s Harry Potter.

The Origin of Me, by Bernard Gallete, Vintage (Penguin Random House Australia).

3 thoughts on “Book Review – The Origin of Me, Bernard Gallate

  1. Meghan McBain says:

    Hi Maureen,

    I’m trying to read this book, but every sentence is getting on my nerves. I’ve never encountered a book like it, except YA books intended for 12-15yo. But this book is clearly not suited to this audience as the vocabulary goes way beyond.

    For me it is incredibly contrived. Every sequence of events, even thoughts are unbelievably coincidental. It’s full of rhetoric irrelevant to character development, in fact every character (that I’ve encountered in the first 3 chapters) has an identical personality. And the authors desperation for praise on account of his “clever writing” and “unique trademark inclusions” – anything but – is astounding (kill me now!)

    How is it that the 15 year old lead has the knowledge of an old man and the sarcasm of a very worldly and self confident young adult?

    I’ve read Boy Swallows Universe, and don’t believe this book is anything like of the same caliber of writing. Would you suggest that I persist? Or is it likely that the first 3 chapters are indicative of the writing throughout. I’m so puzzled by this book because a good friend who I share books with all the time recommended this one, but I just can’t find anything to like about it.

    Regards, Meghan

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  2. Maureen says:

    Hi Meghan
    Sorry to hear you’re not enjoying the book — I loved it, particularly the elements akin to magical realism. I also enjoyed and appreciated the witty, somewhat precocious protagonist. It’s up to you whether you continue. I used to persevere with every book I’d started, but I’ve reached an understanding that some books simply aren’t to my taste, and I’m content to let them go.

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    • Meghan McBain says:

      Thanks Maureen. You’re right, I tell myself that at my age I know better than to persist with a book I don’t like, and yet there have only ever been a handful that I’ve not read cover to cover. It’s probably a matter of taste, but as my friend has always had the same taste, I’m inclined to think perhaps I’m just in a testy mood. I might put it aside for a week, and try again later. xx

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