Thank you Chris for this book!
This is a very interesting novel about how Australia began its colonization. The narration starts (in an extremely linear fashion --the total opposite of how memory works!) in London and the description there seems to borrow a lot of Dickens's most impressive depiction of poverty. It is in London where we meet William Thornhill who, instead of being killed after stealing 'brazilian wood', is deported to the New South Wales, a colony that would later become Australia. He is sent there with his wife Sal (my favorite character), and from then on, everything consists of being able to endure all the hardships of this new land, especially the natives, black people that are seen as exotic animals, enemies and a dangerous plague.
Thornhill, this man that has escaped death and comes from a very poor background, needs madly a sense of ownership and this is one of the concepts that the novel manages to pass to its readers. But nothing is easy in this land that is not being discovered (as we have been taught in our school classes --same thing in America), but invaded, since indigenous people have been living there for hundreds of years. So naturally when this illiterate man looks around (he will later feel proud of being able to write his own initials), he thinks:
"It took him some time to admit to himself that his hundred acres no longer felt quite his own. A small group of blacks was always about, even if almost unseen. Their bodies flickered among the trees, as if the darkness of the men were an extension of bark, of leaf-shade, of the play of light on a water-stained rock. The eye could peer but not know if it was a couple of branches over there, or a man with a spear, watching" (198).
Spears are also very important in this book and there´s several scenes in which we watch men being speared, gutted, their bodies dismembered, etc. Nature and landscape are also beautifully conveyed.
Sense of ownership, of being an alien, of being sentenced, of being among people you don't know, of being an outcast, of not being able to go back to your own country: these are the ideas that this wonderfully written novel accomplishes.
An interesting description of a kangaroo:
"Seen up close, a kangaroo was a creature out of a dream, put together from different parts: the ears of a dog, the muzzle of a deer, that thick tail like a furred python. Something was wrong with the proportions, so the back feet were nearly as long as the tail, while the forepaws were stolen from a child" (224).
Trivia: did you know that 'Joey' is the name for the baby kangaroo?