The Deep Field

James Bradley, Author Henry Holt & Company $26 (358p) ISBN 978-0-8050-6111-6
Taking his title from an astronomical term for a ""pinhole"" in the sky through which deep space and time may be glimpsed, Australian writer Bradley (the multiple-prize-winning Wrack) presents an imaginative vision of the future in this ambitious, occasionally overwrought second novel. Narrated by a 300-year-old Australian woman who reimagines events just before her birth in 2012, the narrative focuses on photographer Anna Frasier, the narrator's mother, in a world shaken by cataclysmic political upheavals and plagued by disease. While visiting her mathematician twin brother, Daniel, in Hong Kong, Anna falls in love with Jared, a charming market trader. She renounces her life and career in Sydney to be with him, and the liaison endures for four years, but their time together is volatile, undermined by Anna's complicated relationship with Daniel. It is a period of ugly political confrontations between the Chinese government and democratic students, and when mainland Chinese tanks roll into Hong Kong, Daniel disappears and Anna leaves Jared. Anna's story resumes in Sydney a year later, where she undertakes a new project photographing fossil ammonites at the state museum. There, she meets blind, blunt-mannered paleontologist Seth LaMarque, who is able to soothe her troubled psyche. Their happiness is disrupted, however, by both societal unrest--Seth's sister, Rachel, a solicitor for the disenfranchised, is in the midst of it (and is the source of a major surprise at the novel's end)--and Anna's need to know her twin's fate. Bradley's supple prose is sonorously paced but, at times, his Proustian meditations on memory and love verge on the platitudinous, and metaphors and literary epigraphs pile up. Still, Bradley creates a convincing futuristic vocabulary and makes deft use of the language of fossil research and photography, proving himself a talented novelist with staying power. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/01/2000
Release date: 05/01/2000
Genre: Fiction
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