First published in Australia in 1963, this is a rich novel about WW II survival in the Great Sandy Desert--as told years...



First published in Australia in 1963, this is a rich novel about WW II survival in the Great Sandy Desert--as told years later to an Australian newspaperman. When the British garrison at Singapore is about to fall to the Japanese, the Air Officer Commander asks Dutch pilot Dirk Van Dooren (the tale's narrator) to take the Commander's spoiled 17-year-old daughter Fiona to stay with Dirk's wife in Soerabaya, Java. Dirk does so, but then Soerabaya itself comes under attack and he must evacuate his wife Marianne, their baby, and Fiona to Australia. But spiteful Fiona hides, not wanting to go, and Dirk sends his wife and child ahead in one plane while searching for the missing girl. They wind up in another plane which crashes in the great Australia desert. Seven survive: Dirk, Fiona, a Dutch boy of 15 named Henkie, Jacob Salomonson, the enormously fat Dutch-Armenian diamond king (who has a bag of stones with him), a pitiable Dutch woman, and two thuggish Dutch men. After great hardships on the desert they find themselves in an uninhabited but Eden-like oasis valley (they call it Landfall) where, as the months pass, they learn to do without civilized comforts, build, fish, and hunt for themselves. In a cave Henkie finds aboriginal paintings of great beauty and decides to build a house nearby for Fiona--he completes a fantastic garden first. Meanwhile the two Dutch boors rob Jacob of his diamonds (actually they have only his much less valuable industrial stones), but then kill themselves in a fight over the jewels while their woman friend goes mad. And finally, when some English-speaking natives show up, Dirk goes off with their leader to get help; the madwoman leaves with the other departing savages; Jacob suicides because of vast infection; and Henkie dies of appendicitis. Only Fiona is left, sitting on the rim of a vast gorge while watching Death walk toward her in the twilight. But that's not the end! . . . Lots of ripe, hot description, even more satisfying character development (Fiona is slowly transformed)--a sweet, scary, earthy saga.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 1980


Page Count: -

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1980