To the Burning City
To the Burning City is an absorbing drama that tells of the bewildering relationship between two half-brothers, Jeb and Len, and their involvement with the past; with Len's father, Crispin Heagelow, a bomb-aimer in the 1943 Hamburg raids.
Jeb's early awareness that Len is somehow different from other people's brothers deepens as he grows older. Gradually he comes to see Len as one of the hidden, terrible casualties of war. But what of himself?
Set in England, Germany and Australia over a forty-year period, this is a passionate and emotionally powerful novel of family ties and filial relationships.
You can remember. he thought, a place or a time being full of light, yet it can feel dark.
He woke and found himself staring past the white mound of his pillow toward the window. Somewhere he could hear a cuckoo. His eyes were watering, as they sometimes did when he first awoke, so he remained still, allowing a droplet to form at the corner of his eye and roll onto his cheek. Then he turned his head and allowed it to flow back floodingly into the eye. The sensation was mildly enjoyable. He was hungry, particularly so, even though he had become used to the vague sensation in his tummy that he had never eaten quite as much as he wanted. But he also had a sense of joyful anticipation, all the more delicious for not being able to remember immediately what it was that was due to happen today.
The other boys appeared to be still asleep, though the sun was streaming almost horizontally through the dormitory's one tall window, and making the crisscrossing of the stickytape shine with a yellow translucency. The stickytape, Len knew, was in case of bombs.
From the William Heinemann Australia paperback edition, 1991.
About the author:
Alan Gould was born in London in 1949 of English-Icelandic parents and lived on Armed Forces camps in England, Northern Ireland, Germany and Singapore before coming to Australia in 1966. He holds an Arts degree from The Australian National University and has worked in various short term positions including nuclear physics technician and agricultural labourer. Since 1975 he has written poetry and fiction as fulltime as resources allow, augmenting his income with literary journalism and relief teaching. Of his five volumes of poetry, the second, Astral Sea, won the 1981 NSW Premier's Prize for Poetry, while his first novel, The Man Who Stayed Below, received the Foundation of Australian Studies Award for Best Book of the Year in 1985. His most recent books have been a collection of novellas, The Enduring Disguises, and a volume of poetry, Years Found In Likeness. His selected poems, Formerlight, is due in 1992.
This novel was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award in 1992.
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Last modified: April 24, 2002.