"Robert's father, Mr Saxby, liked to say that he'd be a much happier man if his ship came in. But money was tight in those years after the war, and he kept getting knocked back at the bank. He was a printer of wedding invitations, grocers' flyers, newsletters of the Labor Party and whatever else, and, if he could only buy a better press and rent a bigger building, why, he could expand.
"Bur Mr Saxby's ship never comes in and as Robert leaves boyhood and university behind, marries the desirable, ambitious Georgina, fathers two children and establishes his career, he wonders what has become of his own cargo of aspirations and dreams. Opportunities arrive but, cautious, he steals away from them, despising himself at the same time for the cowardice.
"A sensitive exploration of the life of an ordinary man, his family, his loves; evoked in smooth unobtrusive style, Steal Away introduces an important new novelist to the literary scene."
When Robert Saxby was eight years old he realised that his father was often fearful and anxious. His father was a man who hated to find himself alone, a man who bloomed only when he had made himself snug with people and pets and bustle. Then Mr Saxby might uncoil. He liked to gesture, his hands grainy with printer's ink from his workshop, and would grow sentimental and expansive, calling people by the wrong names, shaking his head and clicking his tongue, pumping visitors and new acquaintances for more. "And what happened then?" he would ask. His face moved in delight, concern, triumph and a kind of knee-thumping glee as he listened to the answers. He leaned forward for more. Robert saw that people liked his father - he was a good audience.
Many of the visitors to the Saxby house in those years after the war were Mr Saxby's mates from his army days. Robert, a boy in short pants and with hair that wouldn't stay down at the back, sat on a wooden chair in the kitchen and listened to them yarn. He absorbed their voices, he imagined himself wearing berets like the ones that they had tucked into their pockets before they entered the house, and he watched the way they rolled their cigarettes with one hand and held the burning tip turned inwards to their palms.
From the Angus & Robertson hardback edition, 1987.
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Last modified: November 15, 2001.