The Way Home
Henry Handel Richardson
"The Fortunes of Richard Mahony was originally published as a trilogy between 1917 and 1929. It is without question Henry Handel Richardson's most important work, and Richard Mahony, a complex portrayal of Richardson's own father, is the first substantial character in Australian fiction. Richardson's brilliant analysis of human inadequacy, of the gulf between the ideal and achievement, and of the complexities of circumstance, environment and human fraility, make her one of Australia's most distinguished novelists. In The Fortunes of Richard Mahony she brings together knowledge of a significant period of Australian history, an understanding of human weakness, and a grasp of the principles and techniques of the best European and Russian writers of the nineteenth century.
"The Way Home, the second volume of the trilogy, is a study of disillusionment. Mahony, having bought a medical practice on the south coast of England, discovers that his years in the colonies have alienated him from provincial English society. He returns to Australia and prosperity. A second visit to Europe, a 'Grand Tour', is cut short by the failure of his financial affairs, and Mahony is recalled abruptly, and finally, to Australia. The trilogy is completed in Ultima Thule.
"This uniform edition of The Fortunes of Richard Mahony carries an introduction by Leonie Kramer, Professor of Australian Literature at the University of Sydney."
When, having braved the bergs and cyclones of the desolate South Pacific, and rounded the Horn; having lain becalmed in the Doldrums, bartered Cross for Plough, and snatched a glimpse of the Western Isles: when the homeward-bound vessel is come level with Finisterre and begins to skirt the Bay, those aboard her get the impression of passing at one stroke into home waters. Gone alike are polar blasts and perfumed or desert-dry breezes; gone opalescent dawns, orange-green sunsets, and nights when the very moon shines warm, the black mass of ocean sluggish as pitch. The region the homing wanderer now enters is quick with associations. These tumbling crested marbled seas, now slate-grey, now of a cold ultramarine, seem but the offings of those that wash his native shores; and they are peopled for him by the saltwater ghosts of his ancestors, the great navigators, who traced this road through the high seas on their voyages of adventure and discovery. The fair winds that belly the sails, or the head winds that thwart the vessel's progress, are the romping south-west gales adrip with moisture, or the bleak north-easters which scour his island home and make it one of the windy corners of the world. Not a breath of balmy softness remains. There is a rawness in the air, a keener, saltier tang; the sad-coloured sky broods low, or is swept by scud that flies before the wind; trailing mists blot out the horizon. And these and other indelible memories beginning to pull at his heartstrings, it is over with his long patience. After tranquilly enduring the passage of some fifteen thousand watery miles, he now falls to chafing, and to telling off the days that still divide him from port and home.
From the Penguin paperback edition, 1971.
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