Watching the Climbers on the Mountain, by Alex Miller

His beauty and aloofness disturbed the equilibrium of the Rankin family…The stockman for a long time offered a resistance to the members of the family to involve him in their lives. He moved about in their familiar world, observing it with unfamiliar eyes; and quietly, industriously he slowly rearranged it

On a remote Queensland station a stockman fresh from England lives side by side with the station owner and his family, but remains apart. He works hard to clear up projects left unfinished by Ward Rankin, the owner, but resists efforts by Rankin to form a closer bond. Rankin is a disappointed man, forced into the role of station owner by the death of his father. He sees in the stockman Robert a possible friend. His wife, Ida, is also disappointed. Married to an older man out of convenience rather than any real connection, she sees in Robert a possible soulmate, and hope for a release from her discontent. Their daughter Janet also wants something from Robert. Only their son Alistair wants nothing. He sees in the stockman a threat, and watches and waits.

Robert Crofts wants nothing from this family. He goes about his work, seemingly unaware of the tension around him, until a growing attraction between him and Ida sets in chain a sequence of events which will change all of their lives.

Watching the Climbers on the Mountain is a tale of passion and reinvention. Set in the steamy height of summer, the oppressiveness of the weather reflects the building tension amongst the characters. The characters are not likable, each flawed in their own way, but they are intriguing, and the reader is drawn to keep wondering where all of this tension will lead.

First published in 1988, Watching the Climbers on the Mountain has been re-released, inviting fresh discovery.

Watching the Climbers on the Mountain

Watching the Climbers on the Mountain, by Alex Miller
Allen & Unwin, 2012
ISBN 9781743311097

Available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.