"In the warm alkaline waters of the public bath, a naive and headstrong young engineer accidentally collides with a breathtaking actress. From this innocent collision of flesh begins a passion that will take them from the Wiltshire Downs to the mythical source of life in Africa - and to the most elemental choices of life and death in the Australian desert.
"While the intense love story of William Dance and Angelica Lloyd is at the heart of The Drowner, it is but a part of the daring story that unfolds. By irresistibly mingling history, myth and technology with a modern cinematic and poetic imagination, Robert Drewe has reached beyond the traditions of the romance and annexed new territory.
"Such is the grand scale and original texture of The Drowner that it is at once a fable of European ambitions in an alien landscape, a magnificently sustained metaphor of water as the life and death force and, above all, an intimate and ambitious portrayal - of great resonance and haunting sensuality - of the essence of the differences between men and women.
"Lyrical and astringent, vibrant and tender, The Drowner has all the mysterious powers of a dream. Robert Drewe's seventh work of fiction shows an author at the peak of his powers demonstrating the full vigour of his artistic vision."
They met first in the bath.
This is the feeling, the smell, the sound, of their bodies colliding in the bathwater.
The water is ten degrees over blood temperature. Mysterious, flattering light falls from above. Their heads swim in alkaline gurgle and babble. Then her yelp and his spluttering apology echo off the pillars and ceiling while billowing bodies titter and flirt around them.
Experience it again, this portentous warm accident. His innocent blind lunge, only half-swimming stroke, half-stretch, but too vigorous and vulgar for these languid, ghostly wits.
Plat!, he strikes female flesh, soft yet resilient, jumps up too fast, hair streaming in his eyes, and overbalances against her, the second, inexcusable, slithery bump causing her indignant gasp.
From the Macmillan hardback edition, 1996.
This novel was shortlisted for the 1997 Miles Franklin Award.
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Last modified: December 24, 2005.