August, 1943. In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma Death Railway, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. His life is a daily struggle to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from pitiless beatings. Until he receives a letter that will change him forever.
Moving deftly from the POW camp to contemporary Australia, from the experiences of Dorrigo and his comrades to those of the Japanese guards, this savagely beautiful novel tells a story of love, death, and family, exploring the many forms of good and evil, war and truth, guilt and transcendence, as one man comes of age, prospers, only to discover all that he has lost.
It is 1841. In the remote penal colony of Van Diemen’s Land, a barefoot aboriginal girl sits for a portrait in a red silk dress. She is Mathinna, the adopted daughter of the island’s governor, Sir John Franklin, and his wife, Lady Jane, and the subject of a grand experiment in civilization—one that will determine whether science, Christianity, and reason can be imposed on savagery, impulse, and desire. Years later, somewhere in the Arctic, Sir John Franklin has disappeared with his crew and two ships on an expedition to find the fabled Northwest Passage. England is horrified by reports of cannibalism filtering back from search parties, no one more so than the most celebrated novelist of the day, Charles Dickens, for whom Franklin’s story becomes a means to plumb the frozen depths of his own life.
A powerful and moving tale of colonialism, ambition, and the lusts and longings that make us human.
The Unknown Terrorist (2007)
A riveting portrayal of a society driven by fear. What would you do if you turned on the television and saw you were the most wanted terrorist in the country? Gina Davies is about to find out when, after a night spent with an attractive stranger, she becomes a prime suspect in the investigation of an attempted terrorist attack. In The Unknown Terrorist, one of the most brilliant writers working in the English language today turns his attention to the most timely of subjects — what our leaders tell us about the threats against us, and how we cope with living in fear. Chilling, impossible to put down, and all too familiar, The Unknown Terrorist is a relentless tour de force that paints a devastating picture of a contemporary society gone haywire, where the ceaseless drumbeat of terror alert levels, newsbreaks, and fear of the unknown pushes a nation ever closer to the breaking point.
Gould’s Book of Fish (2002)
Winner of the prestigious Commonwealth Writers Prize, Gould’s Book of Fish is a marvelously imagined epic of nineteenth-century Australia—a world of convicts and colonists, thieves and catamites, whose bloody history is recorded in a very unusual taxonomy of fish.
Billy Gould was a forger and thief sentenced to life imprisonment in a penal colony in Van Diemen’s Land—now Tasmania. After six months he escaped and boarded a whaler for the Americas, but before long his adventures landed him back in prison. The prison doctor Lempriere utilizes Gould’s painting talents to create an illustrated taxonomy of the country’s exotic sea creatures, which Lempriere madly believes will assure his place in history and the Royal Society. Lost and re-created, destroyed and hidden, Gould’s book finally resurfaces in the present day littered with scrawls recording his unutterably strange life—part freewheeling picaresque, part tragicomedy —and that of his country, a penal colony, settlement, and magical space populated by generals, visionaries, and madmen. A tour de force that questions the reliability of history and science, and the substance of artistic creation.
Death of a River Guide (2001)
Beneath a waterfall on a remote Tasmanian river, Aljaz Cosini is drowning. Beset by visions, he relives not just his own life but that of his family and forebears. He sees his father, Harry, burying his own father, Boy. He sees Boy himself as a young man, and his Auntie Ellie, chased by a cow she believes is a Werowa spirit. In the waters that rush over him Aljaz finds a world where his story connects to family stories that are Aboriginal, Celtic, Italian, English, Chinese, and East European—what he ultimately discovers in the flood of the past is the soul history of his country.
The Sound of One Hand Clapping (2000)
In the winter of 1954, in a construction camp for a hydroelectric dam in the remote Tasmanian highlands, when Sonja Buloh was three years old and her migrant Slovenian father was drunk, her mother Maria walked off into a blizzard, never to return. Thirty-five years later, Sonja returns to Tasmania and a father haunted by memories of the European war and other, more recent horrors. As the shadows of the past begin to intrude ever more forcefully into the present, Sonja’s empty life and her father’s living death are to change forever. The Sound of One Hand Clapping is about the barbarism of an old world left behind, about the harshness of a new country, and the destiny of those in a land beyond hope who seek to redeem themselves through love.
A sweeping novel of world war, migration, and the search for new beginnings in a new land.