"The French corvette l'Astrolabe sails into Westernport, the scientists on board intent on drawing, recording, classifying. A century later Anna and Jasper Black, pioneering believers in the notion of progress, come to test their belief that the land can be made to serve their purposes. Now landscape photographer Jack Cameron, lost, drifting, struggles with their past to find a purpose his own life lacks.
"This bold and impressive novel interweaves narrative strands from past and present to create a world that is familiar yet disturbingly strange. Landscape becomes an obsession, photographs throw up unsettling images distilled from the past, reality and imagination begin to shift..."
Even with the thick coating of grease, the woman must have felt the jagged edges catching at her skin. She must have felt the dark bruises already starting to surface as she inched her way awkwardly across the rocks. She lay on her stomach, her knees locked tightly together, her arms folded beneath her chest. Keeping her head low, she rocked from side to side, moving slowly forward, occasionally pulling herself up with her elbows and dragging her legs behind her. Occasionally she'd stop as if to sleep, a black shape against the rocks, and the men watching from the hill could easily have mistaken her for one of the seals. She'd lost the fine lines of her adolescence and had grown thick, with full hips and heavy folds of skin. Across her shoulders were dark cicatrices, the markings left behind where the other women had cut her flesh with mussel shells. Further out, at the edge of the shelf of rock, the men could see the seals, the same as always between the tides, waiting to be clubbed.
From the UQP paperback edition, 1993.
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Last modified: January 12, 2006.