Club: Melbourne, Vic, Australia
Group: Nine & three quarter Reading Circle
Author: Andrew McGahan
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Date: 2004

Contribution:

The White Earth is an Australian award-winning* novel. It is a modern fable centered on two characters–a Dickensian child, nine year old William and a powerful, aging, mesmeric figure, William’s great uncle, living in a vast, gloomy, decaying old mansion, situated on Kuran Station, on the great black soil plains of Queensland’s Darling Downs. The tale is a sombre read, slowly paced, particularly in the first half. Modern Australian issues are raised, particularly native title, while red-necked, right-wing groupies are featured in the plot. For portion of the book, two stories, present day William’s, and his great uncle’s early life, continue side by side. Recurring Australian images of drought and fire are prominent, and the reader has eerie encounters with a mysterious burning figure and a frightening Bunyip-like creature. As well, strange, surrealistic personal dreams, and a haunted waterhole hidden in Kuran’s mountain backdrop add further to the plot. The prose is plain–almost simplistic, and yet there is a curious charm to the story, which entices the reader to read on. To sum up: time is not wasted in reading this book.

* 2005 Winner of the Miles Franklin Award, the most prestigious Australian book prize.