By The Line
"The figure of "the Comrade", mesmeric and terrifying, dominates the lives of his wife and sons and young Daniel Jordan, who lives next door. His tyrannical zeal has a devastating effect on the working-class families who live "by the line" in wartime Sydney.
"In this revised excerpt of the novel first published in 1965 as The Fear, internationally acclaimed Thomas Keneally explores the effects of rigid adherence to dogma and the often fine distinction between innocence and guilt."
Next door to us lay the Mantles' narrow little brick place. Both to east and west it was crowded by larger structures, ours and someone else's. Like an ill-laid tombstone, it seemed to be subsiding crookedly into the earth, and was a sunless warren, dim humidity in summer, dim moisture in winter. The laneway to its back door ran flush against our side wall, and blocked off from the light, the moss on the Mantles' lounge room window sill grew a quarter of an inch thick.
Len Mantle and Hilda must have been in their early thirties and had two boys to boast of - though boast is in this case a cruel word. For the younger one was, physically at least, a slack-mouthed replica of his slack-mouthed father, and that was nothing to boast of; while the elder had some congenital disease of the nervous system which was, cell by cell, turning his muscles to jelly and making him walk on the balls of his feet, in what many people who did not know believed to be an insane parody of elegance.
From the UQP paperback edition, 1989.
This page and its contents are copyright © 1998-2001 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.Return to Thomas Keneally page.
Last modified: December 14, 2001.