Australian Grenville (Lilian's Story, 1986; Dreamhouse, 1987) is at her most ambitious yet in this intricately planned story of one woman, everywoman, and the history of Australia, all under a single cover. She's a mercurial writer, capable of pulling off just about every tone she tries, from the lyric to the ribald. Grenville begins with her own Genesis, spinning out the creation of the world as succinctly as the Bible, then focusing in on one of its creatures, Joan Radulescu, daughter of Australian immigrants from an Eastern European country where they eat ""slippery food."" Joan grows up ""plain as a plate"" but yearning to make history and to avoid the traps of marriage and motherhood, though she can't say no when a young man named Duncan introduces her to the ecstasies of the flesh. Intermittently, other Joans sally forth onto Grenville's stage--Joans who document the course of Australian history, from the wife of the discoverer, Captain Cook, to a female thief deported to the land down under, who greets the continent by swimming ashore in the nude. Meanwhile, after running out on Duncan (now her husband) and posing as a man, our main Joan gradually makes peace with her life, determining that "". . .although I had chosen to be that most invisible of creatures, the wife and mother, I had chosen the destiny where history was most truly to be made: mine was the history not of an individual, but of the whole tribe."" A virtuoso performance, by a writer from the Antipodes who belongs at the center of the fiction map.