WOMAN OF THE INNER SEA by Thomas Keneally


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 Kate Gaffney-Kozinski is a rich young exurban Sydney matron, born well and married well into a Polish-Australian construction dynasty. She lives with her children, a boy and girl, in a beachfront house of magnificence, where she's too rarely joined by husband Paul, busy with his various political/financial schemes and a new mistress. When Kate cannot abide it any longer, she seeks comfort from her father over dinner; and while she's away with him at a restaurant, her house burns, killing the children and the babysitter. Kate retreats in instinctive horror, driving herself like a spike to be buried into the outback, coming to rest finally in the unpromising desert (but often flood-ridden) town of Myambagh. ``In training for being beneath notice,'' she becomes a barmaid, the associate of three kind, rough men: Jack, the taverner; Jelly, a local man renowned for saving the town once before with dynamite that blew a hole to let the floodwaters escape; and Gus, a farmer whose mission has been to rescue a pet kangaroo and pet emu from a theme park he'd in a lapsed moment sold them to. While Kate's in Myambagh, there's another flood--a dramatic affair that destroys much, but out of which Kate emerges with her soul half-restored (partly thanks, in the most poetic and stirring side-melody here, to Chifley, the pet kangaroo). Kate eventually returns to Sydney, to discover a horrifying truth about the fire that killed her children; and, in a long tragic spasm of fatality, to do something about it. One of Keneally's best--on a par with Confederates (1980) and Schindler's List (1982)--a book so psychically expansive yet visually potent that you read thinking what a great film it would make, then at some point change your mind and think opera instead. The book is charged with indelible characterizations, and Keneally's prose is compact, stinging, and near-perfect, moving you back and forward into action majestically. An unforgettable novel by one of the finest moral imaginations in literature.

Pub Date: March 16th, 1993
ISBN: 0-385-46795-8
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1993


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