The Sunken Road is an ambitious novel which sets the crisscrossing lives of families in the northern highlands of South Australia against a temporal panorama of a century and a half and forces that extend far beyond state and continent. It is a compassionate but never sentimental account of a collective experience full of hope, pain, exploitation and double standards. At its centre is a strongly rendered character called Anna Antonia Ison Tolley.
In a way, two words suffice for Plumb. Read it. It would be fair to add, ‘Make yourself read it.’ The inexorable, old man’s voice of its narrator George Plumb may irritate you, but before long you will respect his unrelenting and unsparing honesty with himself and his memories, and you will realise that everything he says has its place in this splendidly fashioned novel. At the end, he writes: ‘I thought, I’m ready to die, or live, or understand, or love, or whatever it is. I’m glad of the good I’ve done, and sorry about the bad.’