Josephine Taylor reviews 'The Hands' by Stephen Orr

Josephine Taylor reviews 'The Hands' by Stephen Orr

The Hands: An Australian Pastoral

by Stephen Orr

Wakefield Press, $29.95 pb, 368 pp, 9781743053430

The Wilkie family has farmed cattle at the edge of the desert for 130 years. When catastrophe strikes, three generations of men must wrestle with secrets from the past and the present. The decision whether or not to continue on a failing station becomes critical; definitive action no less testing.

The subtitle juxtaposes elegy and irony: though some characters retain a nostalgic attachment to Bundeena, the iconic Eurocentric pastoral is inadequate in this liminal space, with its parched land and faltering livestock. The emotional environment is also unsustainable: Wilkie men struggle to cry or to articulate their feelings; the novel's women are perceptive yet constrained.

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Josephine Taylor

Josephine Taylor

Josephine Taylor is a West Australian writer and freelance editor, an adjunct lecturer at Edith Cowan University and an editorial board member of Margaret River Press. Her area of literary interest is Australian fiction. In her own research and writing, Josephine is interested in persistent pain states and the creative response to such forms of suffering. Her PhD thesis, Vulvodynia and Autoethnography (2011), has provided source material for writing published in such forums as Axon, Westerly, and Southerly. She is currently working on a novel

Published in December 2015, no. 377

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