This is a story that can only be told in a whisper ...
In the remote outback of Western Australia during the Second World War, English anthropologist Nicholas Keene and his wife, Stella, raise a lonely child, Perdita. Her upbringing is far from ordinary: in a shack in the wilderness, with a distant father burying himself in books and an unstable mother whose knowledge of Shakespeare forms the backbone of the girl's limited education.
Emotionally adrift, Perdita becomes friends with a deaf and mute boy, Billy, and an Aboriginal girl, Mary. Perdita and Mary come to call one another sister and to share a very special bond. They are content with life in this remote corner of the globe, until a terrible event lays waste to their lives.
Through this exquisite story of Perdita's troubled childhood, Gail Jones explores the values of friendship, loyalty and sacrifice with a brilliance that has already earned her numerous accolades for her previous novels, Dreams of Speaking and Sixty Lights.
The resilient daughter of a doomed, loveless couple narrates the luminous third novel from Australian Jones (Sixty Lights). Perdita Keene recalls her childhood as the Australian-born daughter of a British anthropologist and his wife, who come to the outback in 1930 for Perdita's WWI-veteran father Nicholas's fieldwork. Perdita is unwanted, and her mother, Stella, withdraws. Nicholas forces himself sexually on the local Aboriginal women. Among his victims is an orphaned teenager, Mary, who is brought from the local convent to take care of Perdita when Stella is hospitalized. Mary and Perdita develop a close, sisterly relationship as Mary teaches Perdita indigenous wisdom that is a far cry from what Stella and her beloved Shakespeare impart. Nicholas's violence precipitates a tragedy, and the expiation of Perdita's long-held guilt, for her father's crimes among other things, edifies this beautifully composed work.