If the dirt could speak, whose story would it tell? Would it favour the ones who have knelt upon it, whose fingers have split turning it over with their hands? Those who, in the evening, would collapse weeping and bleeding into it as if the dirt was their mother? Or would it favour those who seek to be far, far from it, like birds screeching tearless through the sky?
In 1921 a woman runs from a cruel life but, in order to do so so, goes to measures almost unspeakable. Barely clinging to life, she flees towards the mountains she is sure will shelter her. She is just 26 year old but has already had a life time of experiences – as a circus performer, horse thief, convict and battered wife. Soon there will be a bounty on her head that will see her hunted by every man in the valley. Two of those men, though, know her well – one is her former lover, the other a policeman who has crossed paths with her almost a lifetime ago.
The Burial is a moving, often disturbing tale, inspired by the life of Australia’s last bushranger, Jessie Hickman, though not claiming to be a true story. The narrator is, surprisingly, a child who dies in the opening scenes of the story, which allows an omniscience as well as an unconventional perspective. The story itself is at times dark but at others optimistic, allowing the reader to journey along with the main character, Jessie.
Just as the main character journeys through much of the book, The Burial is a wild, but ultimately satisfying, ride for the reader.
The Burial, by Courtney Collins
Allen & Unwin, 2012
Available from good bookstores or online.