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 The late Australian writer Masters's (The Rose Fancier, 1991, etc.) first novel, only now being published here: a Lawrentian-like opus about two sisters and a smitten reverend after WW I. Though a little rough around the edges, this first fiction powerfully predicts the biting, unforgettable work that was to follow. Una and Enid Herbert lose their mother during childbirth, though Little Henry, the infant, survives. Father Henry soon takes off for Sydney, leaving the two daughters and assorted extended family to fend for themselves--Aunt Violet takes the baby and decides to turn her house into a hospital; Reverend Colin Edwards, new to the ministry, becomes involved with the family because he conducts the funeral, his first, and because he develops a crush on the two sisters (``He imagined one of them now (Which?) bringing tea and toast to the living room fire''). After a spate of jealousy among the three, Edwards chooses Una--but it's a bad choice. Headstrong and restless, she became ``tired of the honeymoon by the middle of the week.'' Masters naturalistically brings things to a climax--throughout, instances of farm life, descriptions of motoring parties and such, and an overlay of texture grounds the action and prepares us for the near-disaster: Edwards almost drowns, but Una saves him. Afterward, pregnant, she has a kind of breakdown, and Edwards begins to dream again of Enid: ``Edwards knew people seldom took the course that created happiness.'' Meanwhile, father Henry returns from Sydney with a new wife, and Una, though alienated from Aunt Violet, appears likely to be taken in at her house-turned-hospital. With echoes of The Rainbow and Women in Love, a proto-feminist take on the Australian outback early in the century: a book that Masters's fans will want to have.

Pub Date: May 17th, 1993
ISBN: 0-393-03498-4
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1993