The Wisdom of Stones

Greg Matthews, Author HarperCollins Publishers $23 (467p) ISBN 978-0-06-017738-6
Leaden dialogue and awkward narration are the weak spots of this otherwise appealing story of three Australians living through WW II. In the mid-1930s, Clive Bagnall, an English schoolteacher, steams into Darwin to claim an inherited estate in the scrub and savannah of Australia's Northern Territory. There he meets Doug Farrands, a local who, in exchange for Clive's hospitality, takes Clive under his wing and reveals to him that the true cause of his uncle's death was suicide, not a hunting accident. After shipping out on a pearl-diving rig, Clive and Doug return to meet Val, Clive's cousin, the illegitimate daughter of his suicidal uncle, with whom Doug falls in love. Doug and Val marry and have children, Val determined to make a go of cattle ranching at the homestead after Clive enlists for the war. Eventually Doug ships out too, and the old friends are reunited in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp situated atop a Malaysian bauxite mine. There, faced with questions of loyalty to friend and nation, Doug and Clive must decide on their own feelings about England, Australia and each other. Tinged with the mystery of aboriginal superstitions and the vast wonder of the Australian continent, this sprawling novel engages in spite of its flaws. $20,000 ad/promo. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/04/1994
Release date: 04/01/1994
Genre: Fiction
Mass Market Paperbound - 480 pages - 978-0-06-109030-1
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