Publisher: Picador; Reprints edition
This book was short-listed for the Booker Prize in 1995, and has been praised by many critics. I found it irritating and inconclusive. It starts brilliantly, but the … Fred Scully, the main character, leaves his home in Australia, to make a new home in Ireland. His wife and child are to follow. The shack he has bought, has to be rebuilt, which he proceeds to do, with the help of workmen. This is November, when the weather is shocking!
He goes to Shannon to meet his wife and daughter, but the child turns up alone, and is so confused that she is unable to tell him anything. A telegram arrives saying all will be explained, but there are no developments.
He doesn’t report his wife missing, or check at Heathrow – a child of seven and a half would have had to be put in the charge of a stewardess if travelling alone, for any reason. As he and his wife had lied for some time in the Greek Islands, he decides to go there, but no one has seen her.
Has she gone off with another man?
He travels through Italy, where they also spent some time, hoping he will find a reason for her behaviour. One woman he meets, to whom he shows his wife’s photograph, says she has seen her in a hotel in Amsterdam. He heads there.
By this time, the child is coherent, but he never questions her. Why Not? He receives a telegram to met his wife in the Tuileries Gardens, in Paris. He goes there at the appointed time, but she does not turn up. How did she know where he was? Why did he not trace the origin of the telegram?
He eventually goes back to Ireland with his daughter, wondering did he ever really know his wife. He still doesn’t contact the police, or try an official way to find her.
Tim Winton writes well, but this story leaves too many questions unanswered.