University of Queensland Press, $24.95 pb, 120 pp, 9780702249525
Geoff Page’s 1953 is set in the town of Eurandangee, which, we learn, is about 650 kilometres north-west of Sydney. There are other locators:
the river, with its governor’s name,
reduced now to a string of pools,
uncertain where to go;
a double shine of railway line
tracking in and stopping.
The river proves to be the Darling and, by my calculation, Eurandangee (if it existed) would be somewhere near Bourke. It is a town of ‘just a dozen blocks’ in wool and wheat country. The season is high summer; it’s 2.30 p.m. on 17 February 1953. The book never moves past that time and date. It is made up of a series of vignettes of the town’s people, observed at precisely this moment. The vignettes alternate between third-person descriptions by an omniscient narrator and named characters providing first-person self-portraits. All are written in finely crafted lines of iambic verse; usually tetrameter or trimeter.