When Blackbirds Sing
"At the outbreak of World War I, Dominic Langton leaves his wife to manage single-handed their remote Australian farm to enlist in the British army. Martin Boyd's novel traces both Dominic's military and spiritual odyssey.
"Langton discovers a world which grudgingly accepts him; the doomed world of the landed gentry. He returns to meet his ex-fiancee, Sylvia, with whom he has an affair. In the end, however, he breaks with the past and all its involvements and achieves a new measure of wisdom when his appalling experiences on the Western Front teach him to reject the senseless waste of war which condemns millions of young men to pointless slaughter. In these experiences Dominic finds his own integrity.
"Martin Boyd has recreated the vanished world of 1914 with masterly skill in this fourth and final novel in the series which has chronicled the lives of the Anglo-Australian Langton family.
"It confirms his reputation as one of the most outstanding novelists Australia has produced, illuminating the conflict between the old and new which underlies the Australian character."
All the way home on the ship Dominic thought of Helena. For the first week he had not so much thought of her as felt her, or felt the loss of her. It was as if part of his body had been torn off, and his life was pouring out of the wound. He had so often been unhappy; though for brief periods, an afternoon or a day when on a horse or in a boat, the rhythm of riding or sailing had brought him into harmony with his surroundings, and he had felt an intense joy of living, which, while it lasted, enabled him to forget his inability to make any real contact with his fellows. When he tried to make it, he generally did something that infuriated them. At last, when he married Helena this obsession had left him; though his marriage had infuriated everybody, especially the way he did it, carrying her off while another man was waiting for her at the altar steps. Since then he had experienced nearly four years of at first bewildering happiness, which soon he came to regard as normal existence. His deep feeling for the natural world and his longing for complete human fellowship were satisfied on the farm where they lived in New South Wales.
From the Lansdowne paperback edition, 1978.
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Last modified: October 24, 2003.