Fictional anthropologist Andrea Bourne’s convoluted life.
This Australian epic covers many characters and diverse walks of life, but it focuses on Bourne, a feminist lesbian anthropology professor in the ’70s who has aspirations to political behind-the-scenes power. Much is glossed over in Bourne’s rise to fame–with little to no effort, she earns a doctorate for a thesis written on faulty material, a full-time professorial position at a prestigious university, international awards (including a possible Nobel Peace Prize) and a powerful position in the â€œMovement” and the â€œTrue Believer’s Party.” Thankfully, after trudging through half the book, the reader is transported into the 1730s for a 200-page, multiple-century journey through the intricate history of the aboriginals, Australian settlers and American soldiers whose lives connected to create the past and present that directly affect Bourne. These flashbacks provide more passion, depth and interest than the main tale they support, and readers may forgive the stilted narration and raw storytelling, given the largely aboriginal cast’s primitive thoughts. The shallow characters sweat, gorge and drink their way through a Pepto-Bismol commercial of nausea, diarrhea and constricted bowels. Rather than describe their emotions, the author shows his characters wetting themselves when afraid and defecating on tables as part of a raucous party. Elsewhere, McNaught’s descriptions can be so specific that they disturb the language’s flow–a plane is not a plane but a G73 Mallard every time it’s mentioned, and a cloud is referenced as cumulous several times in a paragraph. Mundane actions with little plot relevance or character significance are described in droning detail. McNaught is obviously a better anthropologist of South Pacific aboriginals than his main character, Bourne, but his writing could use work.
A mystery that’s epic in length, but not in content.