Two narratives--one by Sally, a teen-ager visiting friends on a farm in Australia while her parents separate; and another by Ann, who came to the same site 100 years earlier when her ne'er-do-well father was prospecting for gold--are skillfully interwoven. Ann falls in love with an Irishman, Jem, but any association with him is forbidden by her father--who doesn't support his family but still has upper-class British pretensions. Ann herself is more accommodating to her new circumstances and courageously makes a life for herself after Jem's tragic death in a mining accident. In the alternating chapters, Sally--fat, awkward, and anxious about her parents--also learns to accommodate herself to the lively Cooper family and to a new view of her parents; meanwhile, she unravels something of the story (the story of century-ago Ann) behind the engraved gold nugget that she discovers in an old mine shaft--a story that gives her insight into the present as well as the past. As in The Other Side of the Family (1988), Pople again creates original, well-defined characters in a vividly realized setting; the unfolding details of not one but two plots should hold readers till the end.