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In the shadow of the famous romance of Ann and Matthew Flinders lies another, even sadder love story, between Flinders’s partner in exploration George Bass and his wife, Elizabeth. Bass and Flinders are so firmly bracketed in the Australian historical imagination that it comes as a surprise to find that the only references to Flinders in this collection of the Bass letters come from Elizabeth. Flinders does not even merit an entry in the biographical notes at the beginning of the book.

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If this is love, then we are all in trouble. Addiction, infidelity, cruelty, violence, obsession, depression, repression, jealousy, impotence, the neglect of children and a whole lot of hysterical personal correspondence are features of the love affairs conducted by the eight writers who are the subject of this disconcerting book.

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