Bloodlines, by Nicole Sinclair

‘It’s running, Clem,’ she says. ‘And I’m not running.’
‘It’s not running, it’s smart. It’s giving you time. And Sam…’ He sees her wince and then, quietly: ‘It gives Sam some space too. And time. God, the bloke must be shattered.’
She stiffens.
Maybe she’ll cry, he thinks. He could reach for her then, sit by her, draw her onto his lap., this broken girl of his, and cradle her like he did when she was a child.

Beth is thirty-one years old and trying leave her past behind. A terrible break up has seen her flee to the family farm in wheatbelt Western Australia but her wise dad, Clem, thinks she needs to go further away: to Papua New Guinea. Despite her reservations, Beth soon finds herself living on a remote island, working alongside her aunt at the school she runs. As she adjusts to life in a different land, amidst a very different culture, she also reflects on the events which have brought her here.

Running alongside Beth’s story is the story of her mother, Rose, who met and fell in love with Clem when she moved to Western Australia but who died when Beth was a child. Clem’s story, both before and since, is also gradually revealed.

Bloodlines is an amazing debut novel, deftly weaving the entwined stories of Beth and her mother, in settings as vivid as they are disparate. Beth’s life has been filled with love, but also with sadness, and her need to make sense of it takes her to a strange, welcoming but unfamiliar land. Sinclair’s love of both Papua New Guinea and of Western Australia shows through in her vivid recreation of the two settings, and her characters fill the pages with their big, complex personalities.

Shortlisted for the prestigious TAG Hungerford Award in 2014, Bloodlines is a heart-filled book which questions the meanings of home and belonging in a way that will leave readers thinking long after the final page.

Bloodlines, by Nicole Sinclair
Margaret River Press, 2017
ISBN 9780994316875

The Mountain, by Drusilla Modjeska

‘How good you look,’ Martha says as they embrace, and Jericho sees the pleasure in her face. When he first came down from the mountain to Rika, barely five years old, she was the other mother. Rika and Martha. They were younger than he is now, and he thinks again of how it must have been for them, in a country that wasn’t theirs, suddenly presented with a small child to raise.

In 1968 when Rika travels to Papua New Guinea with her filmmaker husband Leonard, she feels a connection to the place, even whilst unsettled by its difference. She loves to explore and to capture the place and its people with her camera. But life on the university campus is confronting. It is a time of change for this emerging nation as it moves towards independence from colonial Australia, and there is friction between locals and visiting westerners. But it is meeting clan-brothers Jacob and Aaron that changes Riak – and her friends’ – lives for ever.

The Mountain is a moving novel, exploring both the years leading up to Papua New Guinea’s independence in 1975, and the years since, with the challenges of that independence and the impact of modernisation on this beautiful country. Having spent time in the country myself, I was struck by the familiarity of the people and the landscapes, but for those who have not visited, this will provide a wonderful perspective both of the beauty of the place and the complexities of a country finding its way. The story, too, is marvellous, with a fabulous cast of characters, and themes of grief, love and betrayal.

A beuatiful, moving and disturbing tale, spanning two generations.

The Mountain

The Mountain, by Drusilla Modjeska
Vintage Books, 2012

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No Turning Back, by E.T.W. Fulton

It was a Saturday morning, the day jobs were advertised in the Sydney Morning Herald. I scanned the ‘Positions Vacant’ and spotted ‘Wanted for Rabaul, book-keeper with Island Merchants, apply with written application today…’
‘Where is Rabaul?’ I asked Frank. ‘It’s the capital of New Guinea, I think,’ he said.

So began Ted Fulton’s lifelong love affair with Papua New Guinea, where he would spend most of the next forty years of his life as a gold miner, soldier and plantation owner. Arriving in Rabaul in his early twenties, he soon learnt that if he wanted to make his fortune, a job as a book keeper was not for him. After working a variety of jobs he eventually became a gold miner, before the second world war interrupted.

As a soldier, Ted fought in the middle east before returning to Papua New Guinea, where he was deployed behind enemy lines. When the war finished, he settled briefly back in Australia, before taking his wife and first child back to Rabaul, where he became a successful planter.

For any one with an interest in the Pacific and especially Papua New Guinea, this is a detailed account, told in a no-nonsense first person voice. Fulton is matter of fact about his recollections of the hardships of war and of life in remote jungle areas, leaving the reader to interpret some of the emotions those experienced must have engendered.

A wonderful insight into one man’s life and to the events of the times.

No Turning Back, by E. T. W. Fulton
Pandanus Books, 2005