Freehold: A verse novel
Brandl & Schlesinger, $26.95 pb, 169 pp
Geoff Page’s third verse novel – a form which, if we are to believe the cover puff, he has ‘made utterly his own’ – takes a broad and topical look at the problem of reconciliation in Australia. Reaching back to the 1840s, his narrative opens with an English settler’s account of establishing a successful cattle station on the Clarence River. Edward Coaldale is a liberal with an en-lightened attitude towards the local indigenous people. Employing natives as stockmen and learning their language, he soon earns the suspicion of neighbouring pastoralists, who regard such behaviour as ‘soft’. Prematurely ill with cancer and lacking an heir, Coaldale attempts to bequeath ‘Kooringal’ to the Bundjalung tribe, but is thwarted by regulations insisting the property be left to a single person. He dies leaving it to the talented Jimberoo, who, before long, sells it on to a white family.