The White Earth
"His father dead by fire and his mother plagued by demons of her own, William is cast upon the charity of his unknown uncle - an embittered old man encamped in the ruins of a once great station homestead, Kuran House. It's a baffling and sinister new world for the boy, a place of decay and secret histories. His uncle is obsessed by a long life of decline and by a dark quest for revival, his mother is desparate for wealth and security she has never known, and all their hopes it seems come to rest upon William's young shoulders. But as the past and present of Kuran Station unravel and merge together, the price of that inheritance may prove to be the downfall of them all. The White Earth is a haunting, disturbing and cautionary tale."
"A major novel of grand design. McGahan's most ambitious work yet." - Alex Miller
One spring day in late 1992, when William was halfway between his eighth birthday and his ninth, he looked out from the back verandah and saw, huge in the sky, the mushroom cloud of a nuclear explosion. He stared at it wondering. The thunderhead was dirty black, streaked with billows of grey. It rolled and boiled as it climbed into the clear blue day, casting a vast shadow upon the hills beyond. But there was no sound, no rumble of an explosion. Hot silence lay across the wheat fields, and the air was perfectly still. William said nothing, for there was no one to tell - his mother was in bed with a headache, and he knew better than to wake her. He sat on the edge of the verandah and watched. Ever expanding, the cloud began to drift, caught by some upper breeze. It loomed over the heouse, and great jets were arcing out from the main body, like the trails of slow meteorites. Down below, ash was beginning to fall, small black flecks spiralling in the air. Other particles were bigger, shrivelled and twisted embers, still glowing red as they settled. William was aware of the smell of burning...but it was a good smell, a familiar smell. The smell of grass, of wheat, of the farm itself.
From the Allen and Unwin paperback edition, 2004.
This novel was the winner of the Miles Franklin Award in 2005.
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Last modified: February 1, 2006.