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

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

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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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Published in December 2015, no. 377

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