"A young Greek fisherman, Ilias's first experience as a migrant in Australia in the 1920s is working on the docks as a 'skeb' labourer. He attempts to make his way, learning English from his workmates as he goes. With help from his Chinese friend Harry he buys a greengrocer's shop, but this venture later fails when his regular customers prefer to buy from an 'Aussie' further up the road. Pushed by prejudice and the Depression to a Victorian country town, he finds work in a timber mill. His young wife and three children settle down to a regular life. They are 'at home'.
"But Ilias longs for the sound and movement of the sea, and dreams of returning to his father's home as a success.
"Ilias is a powerfully written first novel of a young man's rites of passage in a land and time where assimilation is valued and multiculturalism unknown."
Daylight hadn't yet broken when Ilias, shivering in the cold, looked out the porthole. His breath made the glass mist over, so he wiped it with his hand, and in the hazy blue light he could see dark shapes that looked like cliffs. They had arrived. After thirty days at sea they had arrived.
He looked out again, just to make sure his eyes hadn't deceived him. The light just before dawn often threw up things that in reality weren't there. No. There was the beam from a lighthouse. It was a welcome sight. During the voyage he'd dreamed about their arrival; coming into a dazzling harbour, and people on the pier waving and calling out in welcome. But now they had reached that place, where sea meets land, where dreams meet reality, he felt a mixture of excitement and uncertainty.
From the Allen and Unwin paperback edition, 1988.
This novel was the winner of the Australian/Vogel Award in 1987.
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Last modified: May 2, 2001.