BOOK CLUB: Taking Tom Murray Home

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By Tim Slee
ISBN: 9781460757864
Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

Author Tim Slee was the winner of the inaugural Banjo book prize, with his novel Taking Tom Murray Home.  The Banjo prize, given by HarperCollins, is a quest to find Australia’s next great story teller and having read Taking Tom Murray Home I have to agree that Tim Slee is a great story teller.

The story is of a country farming family and the aftermath of the death of the husband/father.  Tom Murray was a dairy farmer, struggling like many farmers, and he decides that rather than let the bank have his farm he’ll sell off the stock and burn the house down.  Unfortunately it goes tragically wrong and he dies in the fire. His widow Dawn feels that she doesn’t want his death to be in vain and decides to hold a funeral procession, taking him home to Melbourne where he was born.  

But the procession uses a horse and cart so it takes several days to take Tom Murray home from Yardley in country Victoria to Melbourne (covering some 350 kilometres).   Just before the procession leaves the local bank is burned to the ground and as they approach Melbourne there are more fires which causes all sorts of issues for the procession including civil unrest as the police try to track down the arsonist. 

The story is told through the eyes of one of Tom’s children, thirteen year old Jack.  Jack and his twin sister Jenny both suffer from a genetic disorder which mean they can’t feel pain or cry.   Dawn, Tom’s wife and the twin’s mother, is a determined woman and its clear as the story goes on she is becoming her own self as she becomes stronger and deals with all the issues that she has to face because of the situation her late husband has left behind and her own decision to bring his death and the issues of farmers to the attention of the Australian public with the help of the press. 

This story made me smile at times and it also made me cry especially for Jack and Jenny and the difficulties they will have in life because of their condition and the horror of losing their father.  It’s a story of how we all deal differently with grief, how community rallies round when people go through difficult times and how often it’s those you didn’t expect to support you who turn out to be the ones you can rely on.  

So Taking Tom Murray Home is the story of a unique road trip, we Australians love our road trips so many will identify with this aspect of the story and as we love the underdog we’ll want Dawn and the twins to have a happy ending and for Tom to rest in peace. 

Thanks to the Beauty and Lace Book Club and HarperCollins for the opportunity to read this novel.  I’m glad to hear that Tim Slee has a few more manuscripts on the go and look forward to reading them when they are published.  

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Members have been reading Taking Tom Murray Home by Tim Slee. You can read their reviews in the comments section below, and if you have read the book we would love to hear what you thought!

18 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: Taking Tom Murray Home

  1. One of the reasons I was keen to read this book was because it brought back memories of when my dear Dad died last year. We organised a procession for him through the English village I grew up in. We were only going from one side of the village to the Church, Dad’s coffin (made by my brother) was pulled along by Dad’s old army jeep. The Vicar led the procession, Dad’s military history was acknowledged by a guard of Royal Engineers, by the time we got to the Church the procession was large and the Church was packed. (There was also a police car helping keep the road clear for us). It was a very emotional day but good to honour my Dad in that way.

  2. I found Taking Tom Murray Home a really interesting book and I absolutely loved it. I read it in one day it was that good. Not only did it touch a subject that is close to many Australians hearts you get to know the story of how Australian dairy farmers are being affected. It shows how it is literally tearing families apart from sheer desperation that everything they have put their lives into can be taken away in an instant and NO ONE is fighting for them. For the Murray family who were about to lose their Dairy Farm that they had been on all their lives was just going to be taken away, it was their home their whole life was on that farm. Tom Murray just couldn’t let that happen but unfortunely it cost him his life and that affected his wife and kids. They decided to deliver a strong message to the wider community to let them know what is happening in their own backyards. Banks are repossessing houses and taking family farms because Big Super Markets are not paying dairy farmers appropriately and dairy farmers are struggling to pay any bills as the money isn’t even covering their mortgages let alone water, feed for the cattle, put food on the table etc. Farmers are taking their lives and dying and loosing their homes due to cheaper milk. This book delivers a strong heart breaking message that things really do need to change and also of how it affected the Murray family and the journey they went on to deliver this important message. With some ups and downs in the story it kept you on the edge of your seat hoping they’ll get to their destination.

    Thank you so much Beauty and Lace and to Harper Collins Publishers for having me read this beautiful book that delivers a wonderful message that all Australians should hear.

  3. Taking Tom Murray home is a book that draws you in quickly. I eagerly finished this book over two days, sadly, as I could have kept reading!

    The book starts with Tom, a dairy farmer burning down his family home in rural Victoria. He has run out of time and money and the bank are taking it. But things go wrong and his wife is left telling the kids their father has died in the fire. This story is about Australian’s standing up for a cause, and whilst it starts out being a fight for the dairy farmers, it quickly becomes much more.

    It is Jack, Tom’s son who tells the story, but it is Dawn, Tom’s wife who is the heart of the story, and Jenny the daughter who drives and builds support for their cause.

    From the start you can feel the community that surrounds this family. The caring community that shares their journey to bring Tom home to be buried and the constant battles they have as they move through the Victorian towns with their milk cart and convoy to bring Tom home to be buried.

    This is an Australian story and you will instantly understand why it won the inaugural Banjo prize. The people come to life, you feel their hardship, their strength and their commitment to each other. The Victorian countryside also comes to life as they drive through various towns. From the beginning you will feel like you are moving with the convoy, sitting on the wagon, rooting for these people and their everyday struggles, and the ordinary people who want to be listened to and heard.

  4. Taking Tom Murray Home by Tim Slee. 9.10.19

    The Murray family are struggling to make ends meet. The central Victorian farm has suffered greatly from the drop in milk prices, and as the bank begins the foreclosure process, Tom says he would rather burn the house down than let the bank have it. But things go drastically wrong, and Tom is burnt to death in the fire.

    As Tom’s widow Dawn prepares for the funeral, she decides for it to be in Toms birth place of Carlton, Melbourne, 350 km away. As a protest against farmers losing their farm to low milk prices, The neighbors suggest that for maximum impact, the procession needs to be slow, so they decide to put Tom’s coffin in a milk cart – drawn by a draught horse.

    Tom and Dawn’s 13 year old twins make signs for the sides and the back of the cart – “He died and you keep drinking cheap milk”. The horse and cart sets off on the journey to Melbourne, followed by many locals,

    Through the eyes of Jack, the story tells of the journey, the obstacles, and the support they encounter on the way to Take Tom Murray Home.

    Thanks to Beauty & Lace Book Club, and to HarperCollins Books for the chance to read this quirky, very Australian, salute to farmers and the hardships they face.

  5. Taking Tom Murray Home has a true Australian feel. The small farming community of Yardley bands together after Tom Murray is accidentally killed whilst burning down his own home. This was Tom’s act of defiance when the bank threatened to foreclose on his mortgage.
    Narrated through 13 year old Jack Murray the story is heart-felt as Jack tries to understand his father’s death in his own way. We quite often get jack’s somewhat naive look on events.
    Dawn Murray decides to pack Tom’s coffin on a milk cart drawn by a draft horse and take the trip to Melbourne, a journey of six days, where he will be buried. They garner much support along the way and with the inclusion of media and police Dawn has to remind everyone this is a funeral procession not a protest.
    I quite enjoyed this story about people coming together to support each other but I’m not sure they achieved much. Told through the eyes of a thirteen year old the story is slow going and there isn’t much description of the surrounds. The inclusion of the condition of Analgesia was well plotted and believable. I don’t think I’ve come across this in a book before.

  6. What a wonderful, wonderful book. I really really enjoyed it.

    Taking Tom Murray Home tells the story of taking Tom Murray home through the eyes of his son, Jack Murray.

    As the funeral procession grows, so do the characters, and you can’t help but like them all.

    The side story of the children’s analgesia is an interesting one, and adds more layers to the families plight.

    It was a great story with meaning and one I really enjoyed.

  7. Book 42- Taking Tom Murray home- Tim Slee

    The winner of the inaugural Banjo Prize, Taking Tom Murray Home is a funny, moving, bittersweet Australian story of fires, families and the restorative power of community.

    Bankrupt dairy farmer Tom Murray decides he’d rather sell off his herd and burn down his own house than hand them over to the bank. But something goes tragically wrong, and Tom dies in the blaze. His wife, Dawn, doesn’t want him to have died for nothing and decides to hold a funeral procession for Tom as a protest, driving 350 kilometres from Yardley in country Victoria to bury him in Melbourne where he was born. To make a bigger impact she agrees with some neighbours to put his coffin on a horse and cart and take it slow – real slow.
    But on the night of their departure, someone burns down the local bank. And as the motley funeral procession passes through Victoria, there are more mysterious arson attacks. Dawn has five days to get to Melbourne. Five days, five more towns, and a state ready to explode in flames …

    This was a funny, well written but most importantly real feeling story. As a Gippsland resident we know all too well about our neighbours in East Gippsland and Wellington (and further) suffering in the drought. We can see the pain in the faces of the dairy farmers who are struggling to keep their heads above water. This book felt like it was written with full knowledge of someone who had lived through the tragedy, because realistically it is happening out there as we speak- farmers are committing suicide to escape the heartache of losing their farms. Unfortunately in this day and age it is a sad reality for some.
    Taking Tom Murray took a serious subject that needed to be talked about but put it in a quirky, well written and relatable book. It was an enjoyable read and I highly recommend it.

  8. This book explores a situation that sadly is becoming more prevalent.
    A bankrupt Dairy Farmer, Tom Murray, decides that he is not going to hand his farm back to the Bank in Foreclosure.
    He sells the herd of dairy cows, then burns his house down.
    Tragically he loses his life in the fire.
    Dawn his wife, decides she doesn’t want his death to mean nothing,
    so decides she will cart his coffin by road to Carlton, a suburb in Melbourne, where Tom came from.
    She takes him on a horse and cart.
    A long slow trip.
    An arsonist is following the funeral procession and with each town they pass through and stay at,
    the procession grows.
    The fires continue.
    The Australian public gets behind Dawn and her two children
    and there are enough twists and turns to keep the reader interested.
    I really enjoyed this book and would readily recommend it.

  9. Taking Tom Murray touches on a subject that is truly a real issue in this day and age in Australia. Tom Murray is a dairy farmer struggling to make ends meet and rather than let the bank have his house he decides to burn it down but tragically dies himself leaving his wife, Dawn and two kids, Jack and Jenny.
    Rather than let her husband die in vain, Dawn decides to take Tom home with a procession back to Melbourne to bring awareness to the farmers plight.
    The story is told through the eyes of Tom’s son, Jack and it is a beautiful book to read. We follow their journey as they make the slow journey to Melbourne but trouble follows them in the form of fires being started wherever they go. I really enjoyed this book and the way it was written. Thanks to Beauty and Lace and Harper Collins for giving me the opportunity to read this book.

  10. Thank you for the opportunity to read Taking Tom Murray Home. It is the story of the heartbreak farmers face in the drought. When Tom burns down his house, rather than have the bank repossess it, he is tragically killed in the fire. His wife decides to take him to Melbourne to be buried.Within this story there are a number of other stories. There is the story of Tom’s twins., Jenny and Jack both have a rare condition where they do not feel pain. This causes them to sometimes feel different and draws them very close together as brother and sister. Their escapades and antics gave me many laughs. Jack is the narrator of the story.
    It is the story of Tom’s wife, Dawn who becomes a central, strong character. Doing things she never thought she could.
    It is a sad and serious story, yet it is full of funny incidents. Tom burning down his house is followed by a number of copy cat fires, where banks and supermarkets are attacked. It came as a huge surprise to me when the culprit was discovered.
    It is a well written book that brings home how the farmers join together to support each other despite their differences.. An excellent read

  11. Taking Tom Murray Home was the book I needed to read. I had just read a book that was heavy and depressing and needed something that wasn’t these things
    Strange that a book that deals with financial ruin and death and many other quite serious matters can be such an uplifting story.
    It is a story as Australian as meat pies,: chock a block full of humanity. Yes it deals with very heavy subject matters but through it all you never feel despair
    I laughed, I cried but I had to keep reading until the wee hours of the morning. A lovely refreshing people book
    Many thanks to Beauty and Lace and Harper Collins for the opportunity to read this tale of Australian mateship at its best

  12. Taking Tom Murray home by Tim Slee

    Thank you beauty and lace to allowing bf hi read the book.

    Bankrupt dairy farmer Tom Murray decides he’d rather sell off his herd and burn down his own house than hand them over to the bank. But something goes tragically wrong, and Tom dies in the blaze. His wife, Dawn, doesn’t want him to have died for nothing and decides to hold a funeral procession for Tom as a protest, driving 350 kilometres from Yardley in country Victoria to bury him in Melbourne where he was born. To make a bigger impact she agrees with some neighbours to put his coffin on a horse and cart and take it slow – real slow.

    Great story of an Australian family dealing with the struggles of life. This story is told by Toms 2 children. Very easy read and recommend for an outback Aussie read.

  13. This book was really interesting to read, I really enjoyed it.

    Thank you to Tim Slee, Beauty and Lace and Harper Collins for the opportunity to read this book. It is definitely one I would read again and again

  14. “Taking Tom Murray Home” is a read that so clearly outlines stresses in rural areas of Australia for its time. The underlying story coming through with the tale of a loss and funeral procession from the aspect of the deceased son.

    Tom decided when facing bankruptcy that the bank was not taking his family home. Their valuables removed he lit it up, the fire swallowing the home. One thing he didn’t plan was a successful exit strategy, his death discovered once the fire is out. The country down shocked and devastated.

    His wife, frustrated by his actions, decided to make his loss a statement and arranges a funeral procession, by horse and cart, some kilometers into Melbourne so he may be buried with his people. Cars following to show there support this procession sparks frustrations from the police in the obstruction it presents. News people taking interest in the event and the #Burn sentiment started by Tom’s daughter. A show of support also with fires starting along the way, resulting in further conflict.

    But is Tom really dead, did he really do this, his son is not entirely convinced. Follow the story as the coffin makes its slow and arduous way to its final resting place.

    An interesting read and different perspective to what I initially would have thought of. Glad that I had the chance to read an informative and inspirational story. Thanks Beauty & Lace and Harper Collins for the opportunity.

  15. Following the horrendous bush fires I understand Tim Slee is donating all royalties for 2020 from Taking Tom Murray Home to the families of the firefighters who lost their lives.

    This is the message on his Facebook page:

    We were trapped south-east of Nowra during the Currowan fire over NY Eve and owe a huge debt to the firefighters who stopped the blaze from doing even more damage. All royalties from Taking Tom Murray Home (HarperCollins Books Australia) for 2020 will be going to the families of firefighters who gave their lives fighting these fires.

    If you’d like to help them the RFS link is below.…/support-for-firefighter-famili…

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