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Whitey's Falls, a former gold-mining village in New South Wales, has a population of 49, most of them founding elders, and no wish to be restored, preserved, or improved: ""We do not wish you to spend a single dollar of your money on restoration bore,"" writes one of tho elders to a would-be preservation committee. ""The buildings have been used. They have done well enough for us. But we shall soon be dead; so let the place also fall into ruin."" And Whitey's Falls' newest resident is Vivien Lang, whose aunt in England (one of the village's original denizens) has given her a Whitey's Falls house--shrewdly guessing that Vivien might appreciate the town's special features. The old townsfolk, after all, have extraordinary memories: their chief communal activity is ""Remembering."" Beguiling, too, are the grand eccentricities and secrets of Whitey's Falls: the brother-and-sister shopkeepers who keep their love-child Fidelis--Fido for short--shuttered from view; the old woman who has knitted the entire interior of her house, window-views included; the Chinese welder distraught over the loss of his physical beauty, driven to self-scarring. So Vivien is indeed seduced by the charms of Whitey's Falls, quickly falling in league and love with one of the few youngsters in town, Billy Swan. And Billy, who senses that the town faces something worse than rehabilitation once a new road is built, spends most of the novel planning an explosion that will close down the town's old, mythically huge gold-mine forever. . . . Hall, an Australian poet, generates lots of vigor with the backfires (literal and otherwise) of this dotty world, with its utopian/surreal/pastoral touches. Furthermore, he writes in any number of accomplished poetic prose-styles--making this a tour-de-force of narrative orchestration. And, if the abundant verbal ingenuity here tends to highlight the essentially skimpy and predictable nature of the plot (for all its chirpy highlights), readers who delight in stylistic fun will find Hall's fiction debut a must: a nickelodeon concert of lavish proportions--a bit rinky-tinky perhaps, but impressive and delicious all the same.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1982
Publisher: Viking