"Dymphna Cusack's new novel is set in contemporary Australia. It depicts the struggle of forty-five-year-old Tempe Caxton to find a meaning for her life when she is deserted by her lover and loses her job as a professional model because she is too old. Typical of many lonely middle-aged women with no goal in life, she attempts suicide and fails. The book opens with her return to life, despairing, embittered, apathetic.
"The discovery that her dead son has left a daughter (now aged five) by a part-Aboriginal girl galvanises her. The child needs her help. The Aboriginal family that has reared her is being evicted from the property they have occupied for over half a century. To help them Tempe must step out of the fashionable, conformist world in which she has lived and plunge into an unpopular struggle. She does this, and it takes her into the little-known Aboriginal community that has grown up in the slums of Sydney, as well as onto an Aboriginal Reserve in a country town. It brings her friendship with her granddaughter's people and deeper understanding of a problem of which she was completely ignornant. She finds reason to live, aware that life is going to be hard.
"Black Lightning breaks new ground in its treatment of the values of present-day Australia and in its picture of the changing Aboriginal world."
Blind, deaf, numb, she floated in a cloudy cocoon, suspended between death and life. Picasso-patterns wove themselves against the dark in luminous spirals, flashing spears. Light seeped through sealed lids. Splinters of sound pierced the clogged cotton-wool of her brain in which no thought stirred. Only the awareness that light was pain, sound was pain.
Somewhere a dog barked, ripping open the cocoon. A hammer thudded against the walls of her skull, cracking the bones, pulping the sodden flesh. A spark of mind glimmered. She knew she was alive. The thudding was a pulse driving a reluctant heart, rousing a drugged body.
From the Heinmann hardback edition, 1964.
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Last modified: February 11, 2002.