Truant State

Nicholas Hasluck, Author Penguin Books $6.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-14-010466-0
After the Great War, the Traverne family relocates to Fremantle, in Western Australia, from England to ``escape from all the squabbling, the class divisions,'' to start anew a life of hard, clean work, where ideals can be upheld. The head of the family next door is Romney Guy, a charming swindler who ``knows everyone, everything. And if it hasn't happened yet he makes it happen.'' One man among many lured by Guy's plans is Dr. Henry Traverne, who eventually undergoes a change of fortune and is disillusioned. The story is told by Henry's son Jack, who witnesses the machinations of Romney Guy, and who becomes embroiled in the politics of Western Australian during the Depression (when ``the days were like the hooves of a passing legion, like time itself, grinding people down, gradually erasing their features . . . until there was nothing left but dust and memories'') and in a secessionist movement. Hasluck, an Australian, has a keen eye for detail, and his descriptive passages of large crowds and riots are especially well wrought. This is a story rich in characterssympathetic and offensiveall crafted into finely balanced prose, although the romance between Jack and Diana Guy, Romney's daughter, is weakly rendered. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/03/1988
Release date: 06/01/1988
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