The Second Bridegroom
"Hauntingly lyrical and visually stunning, The Second Bridegroom is the spellbinding tale of one man's exile - from family, country, and religion. Set in the early nineteenth century, it tells the story of a young convict transported to Australia, where he escapes into the bush and becomes the centre of a ceremonial journey which he has no means of understanding.
"In exquisitely crafted prose, Hall subtly - sometimes ironically - explores the boundaries of art and illusion, magic and religion, innocence and guilt, savagery and civilization.
"The first novel in a trilogy that concludes with Captivity Captive, The Second Bridegroom is a work of mythic resonance - intensely magical and shimmering with insight. It will confirm Miles Franklin Award winner Rodney Hall's stature as one of our most inspired contemporary writers."
I must face the fact that you will have forgotten who I am. So if you have the patience I shall tell you. And for my part, of course, I must at last get to know you too.
I am near-sighted. My impressions of you have been those of a man who sees no details at a distance. I am given little enough to go on at the best of times. I see a blurred world of large simple shapes; as with my first view of the new land we reached at the end of our voyage south from Sydney. Looking back on it, I try to guess how this wilderness might have appeared to you.
Let me call the scene to mind. Sunshine blazes across a sea so amazing calm we hold our breath. We are in an untouched place. Stunned by sheer light-by the glare of bleached sand and the brilliant sea breaking as a white crust - I peer into the water but I don't like to mention what I think I see down there. Surely those with long sight could not fail to notice? The water is clear as air. We all look. No one speaks. Yet I would swear I can make out a sunken ship, a brig like our own or a barque. Squinting to get it more definite, I see masts and spars. Also a hull wedged among undersea rocks. Who has been here before us? What hopes are already drowned? Wind ruffles the light and the wreck is gone. Still no one speaks. They look. And I look. I glimpse a mast again and a crow's-nest. Yet they are the ones who can see - and I only think I can see. But how vivid this ocean is, with a lick of satin parallel to the coast a quarter of a mile out, like a wake and yet too broad to be left by any vessel: it is as if our whole future had already come, swept past, and gone before we even arrived. Meanwhile the past has been scuttled. A slight swell lifts that sleek ribbon and passes beneath without breaking it, like a muscle under skin. A minute later, when the swell reaches us, riding here at anchor, we rise to its gentle authority. We also subside.
From the McPhee Gribble hardback edition, 1991.
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Last modified: December 9, 2004.