The Big Fellow
"The Big Fellow, Macy Donovan, who in Seedtime, the second novel of Vance Palmer's Golconda trilogy, was still in the early stages of his political career, is at the opening of this third novel of the trilogy at the peak of his powers and achievement.
"The novel takes up his story after a gap of twenty years. Now fifty, a shrewd and experienced politician, Macy is about to step into the shoes of Wardle, the Premier, who has departed to a cosy niche in the agent-generalship in London. Apparently Macy's ambitions have been achieved and his desires fulfilled - the premiership, a comfortable marriage, two children - yet there are inner stirrings of discontent and vague wishes for a fulfilment he has never found, and in the background rumblings of a political storm over an old mining venture.
"Macy's sense of frustration is soon awakened fully by the return into his life of Neda, the sculptress, who first touched his emotions in his early days on the Golconda mining field. He feels that with her he can find a fulness of life that he has never known with his wife, Kitty.
"Meanwhile the raking over the ashes of his involvement in the Mount Clutha mine through his connecton by marriage with Vern and Brian Hegarty, two shysters who have hitherto managed to stay within the law by a narrow margin, threatens his political career. Macy calls a Royal Commission.
"A dramatic climax is reached, and the final scene is played out in the Golconda to which Macy's thoughts have often turned as a symbol of his youth.
"This last novel of the Golconda trilogy represents, says John Barnes, 'a final, deeply considered statement of a man who saw life steadily and saw it whole.'"
"Awake, Mr Donovan? It's past seven."
The voice came floating in on Donovan faintly, coaxing his eyes open, dissolving the last veils of sleep. He gave a grunt and roused himself, turning over on his back as the girl who had brought in the tea disappeared through the glass door to the balcony. It was as if she had come and gone without sound except for that distant echo in his cars.
The sun was already streaming into the bedroom, and for a while Donovan lay inert, looking at the rolled-up cane blind, the pale strip of sky beneath it, the filmy tops of sugar-gums at the bottom of the garden. Another hot day! His head felt as if it had something loose in it, and his mind was confused with a memory of dreams that had no clear outline except for the last. He tried to recapture it. He was flying over jungly hills with an American general somewhere in the north, uneasy because the plane was continually losing height and had to be kept up by his raised arms and efforts of will. A deadly strain, for the man beside him wouldn't help, merely sat watching him side-ways with a little chuckle curiously like Sealy's. When he peered out, the wings of the plane seemed to be made out of brittle gauze like the shell of a dead locust, and the pilot at the controls had the look of an insect, too, hooded with a gleaming black helmet that reached down over his spine.
Donovan yawned and sat up in bed. It was the whisky he had drunk the night before that made his tongue feel so woolly, he told himself: years since he had let himself go like that. But the warm currents of goodwill (was it goodwill?) that had washed in on him from around the big table sapped his defences. They had put on a show for him: Geyl, who hated liquor, lapping it up like the rest, his featureless old face flattened out in boozy amiability; McNally in shirt-sleeves springing up to propose toasts; Rinaldi, Harper, and Conlon jostling one another to recall triumphs of his in union meetings or on the floor of the House. And they had all been ready to burst their lungs with assurances that he was a jolly good fellow. Gusty voices, figures coming and going, faces shining whitely-dim through the cigar-smoke like drowned shapes in water - it had been an inspiriting night.
From the University of Queensland Press hardback edition, 1973.
This novel won the Miles Franklin Award in 1959.
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Last modified: May 20, 2002.