The Conversations at Curlow Creek
"The year is 1827. In a remote hut on the high plains of New South Wales, two strangers spend the night in talk. One, Carney, an illiterate Irishman, ex-convict and bushranger, is to be hanged at dawn. The other, Adair, is the officer of the polce who has been sent out to supervise the hanging. As the night wears on, the two men share memories and uncover unlikely connections in their lives. Outside the hut, Adair's troopers sit uneasily, waiting for the dawn to come.
"Carney questions the accidents of birth and fortune that have brought him to this point. Adair looks back to Ellersley, the household in the west of Ireland into which he was adopted; to his relationship with his young foster-brother, Fergus, and the imperious and mercurial Virgilia, daughter of a neighbouring landowner. What has brought Adair all the way to Australia? And why is Carney, and what Carney knows, so important to his future? Delicately, in prose of precise and evocative power, David Malouf's new novel reveals a web of relationships that embraces Carney and his past, and the deep ties that underscore Adair's mission.
"The Conversations at Curlow Creek is a luminously rich and moving novel. In a narrative of growing intensity, it explores questions of nature and justice, reason and un-reason, the workings of fate, the force of love, as it dares an ever more dangerous intimacy, and of compassion, as it challenges duty. Continually opening up new levels of perception on its characters and their world, the novel finally gives us a powerful sense both of our isolation and of the experiences that are silently shared between us. It will confirm David Malouf as one of the greatest novelists in the language."
The only light in the hut came from the doorway behind him. Streaming in off the moon-struck plain, it cast his shadow across the packed earth floor and at an angle up the slab wall opposite but revealed nothing more in the stifling gloom than a stub of candle in the neck of a bootle and the rim of a wooden slop-bucket. Adair's first thought was, There is no one here, he has escaped, the bird is flown. It surprised him, after his two-day ride, and considering all that depended for him on what the man might have to tell, that he felt relieved. What is it in us, what is it in me, he thought, that we should be so divided against ourselves, wanting our life and at the same time afraid of it? He stepped in under the lintel. Behind him it was the trooper now whose bulk filled the doorway and broke its light.
From the Chatto & Windus hardback edition, 1996.
This novel was nominated for 1996 Age Book of the Year Award and for the 1997 Miles Franklin Award.
Other WWW Mentions:
You can read an excerpt from the novel on The Age's Book Award page.
This page and its contents are copyright © 1997-2002 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.Return to David Malouf Page.
Last modified: April 18, 2002.