This is a sound historical novel about the Australian sugar industry from the middle of the 19th century onwards via two families -- primarily that of Angus Johnstone, plantation owner and virtual slave driver of the hundreds of South Sea Island indentured servants (Kanakas) who work for a pittance at labor both white men and aborigines refuse to engage in. In his employ is Joseph Efate, kidnapped from his island by a murderous shipowner, who later marries the daughter of a Scottish missionary (Duguid) who once brought the uncertain virtues of Christianity to Efate's birthplace. The plot intertwines the growth and humanization of the plantations with the proliferating families of Australians, Kanakas, aborigines -- opera singers, field workers, dull-eyed businessmen and laughing tribesmen -- who find and lose love, grow old, die -- with little sentiment, often a sense of failure, and always an acute awareness of time which -- even if it has brought one's dreams to pass -- has shown their emptiness. . . . A well-crafted novel deserving greater interest than it might initially attract.