The Sunken Road
"The Sunken Road is a moving, powerful novel set in the wheat and wool country of mid-north South Australia. At once the story of a region, a town and a people, it is also the story of Anna Tolley - 'leggy, wilful, auburn-haired, always answering back' - who lives through momentous changes and earns the envy, love and hatred of those around her.
"Details accumulate, secrets rise to the surface, and slowly we are granted tantalising insights into the passions and heartaches of one of the most memorable characters in Australian fiction."
One sweltering morning in the worst year of the Great Depression, when kerosene-tin shanty towns were starving along the city's creeks and the farmers of the northern highlands were walking off the land, a cruising shark snatched a young wife from the shallows at Henley Beach, compelling the stricken husband to flee inland with his baby son, to the main street of Pandowie, where dangers lurked above the ground. He never remarried but the son flourished, joining Stock & Station and marrying an Ison, an old name in the district, settling with her in the big house on Isonville and beginning a family of his own. Anna Antonia Ison Tolley, born 1949; Hugo Walter Ison Tolley, born two years later. When Anna started at the primary school, it pleased her to come into Pandowie and see her surname above her grandfather's shop: Tolley's Four Square Store. Perhaps Anna resembled her lost grandmother - leggy, wilful, auburn-haired, always talking back - or perhaps Grandfather Tolley was reminded of how tenuous life could be, for when she sliced her knee open on the coils of barbed wire displayed in his shop window one afternoon after school, he panicked, staunching the blood with his vast khaki handkerchief, shaking her until her teeth rattled: You're a wicked girl, Anna, unmanageable. The children's other grandfather warned them to watch out for flash floods, which had been known to barrel down the washaways on Isonville in the blink of an eye. Bucketing rains, Grandfather Ison explained, indicating the pink-smudge Pandowie Hills, then he bent his well-fed back and slash-cleared the star thistles that collared the gravestone of the shepherd boy lost in Ison's creek.
From the Allen and Unwin paperback edition, 1996.
This page and its contents are copyright © 2001 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.Return to Garry Disher Page.
Last modified: October 31, 2001.