THE DARK BRIGHT WATER by Patricia Wrightson


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Once again we're in a present-day Australia beset by primordial spirits--with Wirrun of the People, who acquired heroic stature in The Ice Age Is Coming (1977), called upon now to put an end to all sorts of strange, restless stirringsabout. But the lot of a certified Hero is not a happy one, and Wirrun resists, clinging to his dismal city job as a pub janitor while his happy-go-lucky friend Ularra, who's not "clever," presses the case of their aboriginal People. It's a pregnant human situation, intensified by cuts to the spirit-world where another storm is gathering around a lost river-spirit, or Yunggamurra, of decidedly sirenish charms. Longing to get home, she sets to singing; and her songs somehow reach Wirrun's ears, and haunt him. Prevailed upon finally to journey to the Center of Australia--via a marvelous plane trip with Ularra and an old aboriginal emissary--he recognizes that the disturbances are real and he has the power to quell them. But not just by working magic: his restlessness and the land's are one, he must find and claim the all-troubling Yunggamurra. To accomplish this requires Ularra's transformation into a beast and his reclamation, and the "turning" also of the Yunggamurra--into a lovely, teasing girl. And while there are times when one wishes Wrightson weren't saddled with all this elaborate plotting, the situations are independently convincing, even compelling. Can Ularra, once a beast, be wholly human again? "Can't ever be sure, can we?" he says at one point, with an unsteadiness, a tragic insight, that the old Ularra would never have known. Wirrun, too, begins to accept the role thrust upon him, determined "to go limping, if he must limp, with strength and courage." This ambitious enterprise--which will obviously continue--makes one glad at times that Wrightson has extended her reach into the perilous terrain of the aboriginal Beyond.
Pub Date: March 9th, 1979
ISBN: 0689501226
Page count: 232pp
Publisher: Atheneum
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1979


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