I found this book on Anita Heiss’ list of the top 100 Aboriginal books - http://anitaheissblog.blogspot.com.au
I would strongly disagree that it belonged there.
It is a reimagining of the Myall Creek Massacre, with a cast of characters around a German Lutheran mission. And it is stunningly boring.
This is partly a result of the prose style which could most charitably be described as Hemingwayesque in that it is sparse and favours short sentences. Also, the characterisation is kind of Hemingwayesque, in that it is non-existent. And the women are kind of Hemingwayesque, in that they are Madonna/whores.
So, I like neither the style nor the characters.
And I wasn’t that keen on the plot either, because, frankly, I don’t think that the Myall Creek massacre needs to be reimagined. It’s like James Cameron doing the Titanic but instead of telling us the gripping and fascinating stories of the real people, he invented Jack and Rose and their mundane love affaire.
McLaren decided that instead of telling us the incredibly tragic story of the Myall Creek massacre, he would... write short, sparse sentences about a German Lutheran missionary raping women and setting up the Aboriginal people as the rapist/murderers until the white population snap and massacre the local tribe. It’s not like he had to call it Myall Creek. There were plenty of other massacres, stretching back to the beginning of the colony and forward into the twentieth century. It’s just that this one was well documented because the accused were taken to court and some of them eventually executed.
All in all, no thumbs up for plot, characters or style.