Malouf explores some eternal themes in this historical fiction set in rough and recently settled Australia – cultural splits, communication, identity, a sense of displacement, and Us vs Them. It asks: what is the essence of belonging, and is an equally violent and compassionate look at the complex individual responses to a British boy raised by aboriginals who finds white settlers 16 years later. A psychological study. Usually I like lyrical writing and I did admire Malouf’s poetic prose. But I struggled with the long sentences of many subordinate clauses to the point where, when I got to the end of the sentence many lines further down, I’d have to double check to see the subject and verb. Sad. A measure of our accelerated twittified society.
A favourite quote: ”She loved the way, while you were dealing with them, you had to submit yourself to their side of things”, referring to the bees but metaphorically to the black / white cultural issue.
This is the story of an edge of the world encounter between the "primitive" and "civilized". Brilliant.
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