"The stories in this collection begin at the time of the First World War. They introduce the members of an Australian family and follow them through to the present. They may be read as separate stories, but the repetition of events and characters throughout the book gives unity to the collection."
The Bamboo Flute
The Annual General Meeting
A Considered Stance
First Paragraph from the Title Story
You know about this place. You have been here on other pale and agitated days.
The trees curl and claw their fingers into the sky, amid the rain and noise. The shoulders of the big oak tree are raised, and the water builds up in puddles in the hollows, lips at the edges, and gutters down into the mud. The trees are nourished by the dampness and cold. You sense them drawing it in. The grey rain slaps against the sides of things and slants across the hills and village. It dimples the surface of the dark Somme river running between rushes.
The rain on the big oak is a cruel kind of nourishment, where it soaks in and rots its dead parts into flakes. Never mind that the rain is dissolving the drifting chlorine gas which poisons living things. Now it will become a prickling acid. When there is sun the tree transforms the air so that the soldiers find it heady. They hide near the tree, or lie near it, and believe that they will not die.
From the Neptune Press hardback edition, 1981.
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Last modified: November 26, 2001.