by Robert Drewe
Viking, $45 hb, 415 pp, 0 670 88668 8
The scope of this novel could hardly be more ambitious. It ranges from the landing ten thousand years ago of prehistoric men in primitive rafts on the shores of what would one day be known as the Kimberley, to the apparition of a young asylum seeker off a leaky, sinking boat in roughly the same locality during the present inhospitable times. In other words, it meets the challenge of major issues both immemorial and contemporary.
In a provocative public lecture, anthropologist John Molloy addresses the former: our earliest migrants came not from Africa, as is commonly held, but from Asia. There is only one all-encompassing global species. Evolution, prompted by gene flow, happens everywhere and any time men and women reproduce: ‘You could just as easily say that Man is descended from Australians.’