A Boat Load of Home Folk
"When the tourist ship Malekula arrives at a tropic island in the the Pacific the crushing heat and the looming hurricane intensify the hostilities and frustrations of the egocentric people on board. And when the hurricane bursts on the island the havoc it brings is less perhaps than the personal storms of man and wife, of spinster friends, of man and mistress, of erring priest.
"Gerald Seabrook's pointless womanizings achieve a finality of irritation for his suffering wife; elderly Miss Paradise drives her life-long friend, Miss Trumper, to make a fatal pilgrimage; the agent Stevenson sees the failure of his dream of love with his mistress; and the priest, Father Lake, explodes his own petty vices and his spiritual impotence. Their moments of truth are brilliantly illuminated as the story moves to its climax in the hurricane and its aftermmath.
"A sensitive and unsentimental specialist in suffering and conflict, Thea Astley sees the user and the used, the destroyer and the victim, with an unerring eye for character and motive. In A Boat Load of Home Folk her sympathetic insight is leavened by a rich vein of comedy that underlines the absurdity and pathos of the human dilemmas she describes."
7 a.m., 10th December
This is a postcard from latitude sixteen degrees south and longitude one hundred and fifty-eight degrees east. It is a glossy colour print that has the fault of being only two-dimensional, but if you look hard enough and long enough your trapped eyes will begin to notice that the boat in the middle distance, the Malekula, is swinging slightly, anchored in dense blue.
Time? Seven twenty. The heat is only just beginning.
It's too far away to see the shore in any detail but now and again there is a moment of bleached houses, the green smoke of trees and a sprawl of native stores, pub, mission buildings, hospital and prison.
There are far too many palms.
Someone below deck says "Port Lena" and there is another colour card of the lot of them at breakfast - papaw, pineapple, canned tomato juice and stale bread rolls.
From the Angus and Robertson hardback edition, 1968.
This page and its contents are copyright © 2002-04 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.Return to Thea Astley Page.
Last modified: November 16, 2004.