Staff Review: Emma writes: An exciting new Australian novel about suburban masculinity, How it Feels charts the coming-of-age of Neil Cronk, his best mates Stuart and Gordon, and his high school sweetheart, Courtney. They've grown up in Sydney's Sutherland Shire, but things change for all of them when school finishes. Neil pursues his theatric dreams at uni in Bathurst, then further afield in London, while the rest stay behind in the Shire and live out various versions of young adulthood. This novel deals with themes that are by no means original - sex, drugs, suicide, love, loss, family. It has shades of Tsiolkas' Loaded and McGahan's Praise but as the title suggests, Cowell's novel contains a depth of feeling, told with such gusto and flair, that the book is truly one-of-a-kind. Neil Cronk is not always a likeable character. In his various stages of relationships and substance abuse he is indeed very dislikable... and yet, it is impossible not to feel empathy for him.
How it Feels spans around a decade, and there are chunks of 'missing' time, hinted at by our narrator and the conversations he has. This is one of the book's main strengths: rather than be three times as long and not nearly as hard-hitting, we're given key scenes and stretches of Neil's life to contemplate, scenes where the main issues and characters recur. It's a beautiful literary technique to behold (okay, I know I'm gushing... but I really loved this book!). The end of this book is incredibly powerful - one that literally will take the wind out of your chest. Cowell is well-known for his Australian film, theatre and television career, but this book is sure to place him as one of our finest literary novelists as well.