By a new and major Australian talent, which--like the author's Turtle Beach (1983), set in Malaysia--plumbs the hectic evasions and edgy stances of individuals surviving within, or entering upon, a culture at the boiling point. Here d'Alpuget views modern Israel through the guilts, affections, fears and commitments of both engaged outsiders and citizens teetering in a ""fine hell-like balance."" Again, her landscapes are electric with incident and insight, breathtakingly pictorial. A debt-ridden Australian scriptwriter, 38-year-old Danielle, returns to the land she had left 30 years before, leaving behind her Jewish father, maddened and frightened after the sniper death of his son. Danielle is about to earn a bundle as scriptwriter for a film based on the first-century Zealot revolt and the mass suicide at Masada. The film will be produced and directed by 30-ish Bennie Kidron (Danielle is sure he couldn't direct traffic). Bennie is greedy, ruthless, with a Hollywood brass, but ""his vices had a high polish."" Danielle, rejected once more by her mission-drunk father, falls in love with Bennie, who'd left Israel 15 years before and is doggedly deaf to any summons from the past. Both ""orphans"" play upon one another's guilts and vulnerabilities. Meanwhile, amid the cacophony of political turmoil and consequences not dreamed of by pioneers of Israel's ""rebirth,"" acquaintances exist on a volcano's rim: a young man faces a court-martial for refusing to serve in Lebanon; his father, an old warrior, disdaining government policy, still feels the gut imperative of Jewish survival; and Danielle's old teacher, a lifelong social activist who translates Virgil, learns wisdom in detachment. PLO terrorists, aided by a former London society photographer of fallen fortunes, and unwittingly helped by Danielle, plant a bomb; Bennie smokes a joint at Masada and cavorts on a handrail, but recites a psalm, offers Danielle an invisible dove, and saves a life; Danielle returns to Sydney, tries out a love affair that turns to ashes like the security of home, and in L.A. makes a ""droll"" comedy about Israel and terrorism. Near the close, briefly back in Israel, she'll ""see"" a dinosaur on the road ahead--a sure signal that Israel is an impossibility. Better to blink it away and make funny films. In sum: a startling, searching and sinewy novel, alive with a tortuous-to-fantastic ""laminate of clans,"" old stones resting on the past's ""lake of human blood,"" all under the miraculous skies of Jerusalem.