Harland's Half Acre by David Malouf, published in 1984, is our July Slow Reads recommendation.
By Patricia Bochi
This month’s selection, Harland’s Half Acre by David Malouf (published in 1984), transports the reader to Australia. And why not? July is after all the perfect time to travel far and wide, and experience a plunge into a space and time foreign to most readers.
But beside narrating the rich saga of Frank Harland, Malouf’s novel also resonates with issues that have shaped the pursuit of the American dream, the search for an identity, and the realization of a discrete culture.
Australian-born David Malouf is an internationally acclaimed writer and the winner of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Prix Femina Étranger, the inaugural Australia–Asia Literary Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and he was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.
Born on a poor dairy farm in Queensland, Frank Harland’s life is centered on his great artistic gift, his passionate love for his father and four brothers and his need to repossess, through a patch of land, his family’s past. The story spans Frank’s life; from before the First World War, through years as a swaggie in the Great Depression and Brisbane in the forties, to his retirement to a patch of Australian scrub where he at last takes possession of his dream. Solitude and society, possession and dispossession, the obsessive and often violent claims of family life and love, illuminate the imagination of the artist and the larger world of events. This is an ambitious novel, presented simply and poetically; the narrative is absorbing, full of incident, and peopled with characters of formidable humour and power. (Random House Books Australia)
“The Australia of David Malouf’s eloquent novel is a land like that about which this country’s 19th-century novelists wrote – a new world, shaped by settlers exiled from the old, by the absence of an inherited culture and the corresponding need to create one to fill it.”
“… it is a remarkable book, in which the realist and the dreamer are finally and excitingly fused, both agreed that they have no need of the old world. Henry James rejected America in the 1870′s because he felt its culture wasn’t rich enough to support the novel. Mr. Malouf has asked the same question about Australia and found a different answer.”
Michael Gorra, October 14, 1984. The New York Times on the Web.
“David Malouf is a fine writer – his novels conjure up a whole society and its complex past.”