Reviewed by Richard Bunning
We reach the top of the climb, having started up the `spiritual’ mountain of Newland’s metaphysical creation in the first book in the Diamond Peak series. Life’s path is never easy for anyone if they are to fulfil their potential, the greater our gifts the more that others’ normally expect us to give. So it is with the heroine, Ariel. In the end, this was not so much of the story of Ariel’s struggle to conquer the blackness threatening her and the lives of those she cared about, but rather about her determination to help the `all’ of humanity. The serpentine Ariel has to destroy is just as binding in landscape we all know as it is on her mythical mountain; a massive peak which seemingly buds from some part of urban Australia. There is a true moral theme, the idea of a saviour, the dream of resetting the clock back on all corrupting evil. This work draws on the powerful allegory of writers like C.S. Lewis, whilst remaining free of his well chiselled, establishment, religious tow.
This is a superb read, in which for me the true peak of creativity was in the all too brief return of Ariel to the `real’ world. In this section we are rewarded by glimpsing the very dark childhood shadows from which Nick, Ariel’s ever closer friend, had to emerge. Of course, the fulfilling of the prophecy was most certainly the summit of excitement. Perhaps the `homecoming’ chapter had a particular resonance for me as it brought to the fore the inventive speculative fiction angle of the book to a degree not seen since the opening chapters of book one.
In my opinion, a perfect rounding of Newland’s `Diamond Peak’ project would be an omnibus addition, an amalgam of all four books in one fat volume. This would allow a huge amount of stripping of retold background and re-established character traits. Going over old ground in each book of the series is so necessary to readers’ understanding in any true serial with a defined `quest’. All four of these books work very well as standalone reads. However, written as one script of perhaps 300,000 words, even if still split into `books’, this could become a modern classic of YA fantasy.
September 10, 2013
Best novel I’ve read in years
Some books you know are going to be gold seal worthy from very early on, and this was the best metaphysical fiction I’ve ever read. The standard of the prose was excellent, (something for me as a writer to aspire to,) but more than that, the words had insight; they took you somewhere special – outback Australia. True, the physical setting is special, but not only does The Land Beyond Goodbye take you to the weather beaten back blocks of the Northern Territory, it also takes you into the land’s soul, ushered in by the aboriginal magic woman, Rose. One of my favourite lines from Rose is …
White fellah! Always thinkin’ stuff.
The Land Beyond Goodbye is about an English girl (pommie in Aussie lingo) who, as a young woman, spent some time working in an outback pub. Eighteen years have passed since she left and returned to London, but the death of an old friend has called her back. Darcy has left his place to her and she has no idea why? Or does she?
Her return brings back memories, particularly of the men, one in particular. She wonders if he is still around, if they could have had a life together if things had been different. She soon discovers that he’s around, but his life has fallen apart. He killed a man, an accident, of course, a punch up gone wrong, but her old flame, Jamie, spent time inside for manslaughter, and he’d started the fight to protect Jess’s honour. After he came out, he hit the booze big time, threw his life away, they say.
Jess has to go to Darcy’s place to fix up the legalities. Joey worked for Darcy his whole life, but all he gets of the fortune is the house Darcy built for Joey and his wife Sherry. Sherry doesn’t try to hide her hostility and after an argument, Jess, an emotional mess, drives into the bush. The Toyota stops on a road that no one uses and she can’t get it started. She ends up walking, get’s dehydrated, and falls, once, then again. She breaks her shin, thinks she’s going to die, and would have if Rose hadn’t come along and healed her. How? Jess isn’t too sure. It seems like magic, but it can’t be, can it? How could someone like Rose have such healing ability.
Jess is the kind of modern western woman we can all identify with, and the other characters are as well drawn, Rose, as is right for the character in just a few well chosen words. The author writes her as a wise, compassionate person without judgement, and Jess’s time with her cuts through her preconceptions and prejudice in a relatively short space of time.
And then there’s Jamie, Jinjat now; he arrives looking like the alcoholic Jess had been told he’d turned into, but that was a lie, just as, she discovers, her whole life is a lie. Jinjat has been unmade by Rose and her ancestors, stripped of pretensions and made whole. Jess feels stupid around Rose, because Rose says little, but what she does say shows an uncanny perception. At first Jess is repulsed by Jinjat’s appearance, the dirty clothes, the long hair and beard, but the longer she stays in Rose’s bush hut, eating bush tucker, living in the dust, the more her perception changes and she wonders if there could be something between them still.
Rose suggests that Jess needs fixing too. She agrees. Her life seems hollow now, compared to Rose’s wisdom and contentment, her sense of belonging and rightness with the world. But Jess has to go back to her responsibilities when the police are called to look for her. What is she going to do with this property, the mine and the huge amount of cash Darcy left her? But Jess’s time for fixing comes, and it’s no fun, but it works and Jess is remade. Her decision comes not from white fellah thinkin’ but from a place of knowing, made accessible to her by her time with Rose and her meeting with her ancestors, or demons, as Jess considers them.
This is quite simply the best book I have read in a very long time. Beautifully written, it is both an outer and an inner journey, one that captures the beauty and mystery of the outback and the depth of the inner experience that can come from immersing yourself in the rawness and vastness of the landscape, both outer and inner.
On a social level, the author shows clearly the kind of offhanded dismissal that many white Australian’s show for aboriginals, an attitude that arises from an ignorance much greater than that of any unschooled aboriginal. Without romanticizing the aboriginal situation, the story shows how completely we can miss the point. This is primarily a story of transformation and of how inner wealth is more important than outer wealth.
Perhaps the most wonderful thing about the writing is that, in some places, it actually evokes the state referred to, or perhaps it’s just that I know that place where the material things we usually deem important fade into insignificance.
Undoubtedly, 5 stars and a book that everyone should read, especially Australians.
Wow, I loved this book. Every bit of it. Highly recommended to anyone interested in Australia’s outback and original people.
This book was fantastic and fully-engrossing! I will definitely be getting more of Ms. Walter’s books after this.
I was a little worried as I began – lately the books that have managed to keep my attention will jump right into some intriguing action to hook the reader at the outset (and, if the author can keep up the pace, it works). This book had a beautifully descriptive yet surreal 3 paragraph prologue at the outset (first two sentences, as a taste: “Pearly pink evening light suffused the land, blurring the edges of the bush. The throb of the electricity generator kept time with her heartbeat and the Outback took possession of her soul.” ) and THEN jumped into some action. I was worried it wouldn’t be plot-driven enough, but my fears were thankfully unfounded.
The story line follows a Brit, Jess, as she returns to the Outback for the first time in the almost 20 years since she lived there in her early twenties to claim an inheritance surprisingly left to her. We follow Jess as she goes back to old haunts, gets reacquainted with friends she hadn’t spoken with again after leaving the first time…the disconnect is painful.
The mystical pieces and storyline are increasingly less distinct pieces as Jess progresses. At the outset, Jess greets everyone with “namaste,” and she is unable to bridge the gaps between herself and former friends. As she tries to flea again, her car breaks down and strands her in the Outback. With the lucky and mystical help of a stranger, Jess is forced to face, and reveal not just to the reader but herself as well, what led her to flea the Outback so long ago.
Will she deal with it or run away yet again?
There is plenty of soul searching and action in this book. The author deftly weaves the plot with beautiful prose, romance, ‘magic’, and some heart wrenching conflicts. It’s fantastic.
I received this book free from Awesome Indies Books in return for an honest review.
Interesting novel. I enjoyed reading about the Aborigines. In the end it comes together and leaves me wanting to find out what happens next.
The Ghosts of Eden by Andrew J. H. Sharp is, like the story of Joseph’s coat from the Hebrew Bible, of many colors. It is a story that zooms back and forth in time and across strains of characters’ lives, at times with the speed of a supersonic jet, and at others, languidly like an eagle gliding on wind currents.
On the one hand, it is the story of Michael Lacy, the son of English settlers in pre-independence Uganda, who at the opening of the story is a prominent surgeon in the UK. On the other, the story of the Katura brothers, Stanley and Zachye, two members of the Bahima tribe who are sent off to school to learn the ways of the Bazungu, or whites, in order to be able to survive in the Uganda that is to come.
Although fictional, The Ghosts of Eden gives the reader an in depth look at African culture and the strains between traditional tribal culture, and the ‘modern’ culture imposed by colonization. The characters are so well formed, we feel as if we know them – their dreams and desires as familiar as our own. Told from a semi-omniscient point of view, the author nonetheless allows us to glimpse inside key characters’ minds, adding significantly to the tension that builds steadily from the moment Michael’s seat mate on the plane as he’s returning to Uganda to speak at a medical conference, dies quietly in his sleep. There is action and mystery aplenty in Sharp’s narrative, but this is also a love story – one with more twists and turns than an English garden maze as Michael, Stanley, and Zachye all vie for the heart of the beautiful, but enigmatic Felice.
My only complaint about the book was the author’s habit of not indenting certain paragraphs within chapters, until I realized that this was signaling a change in the action. That realization came about a third into the second chapter, so this really doesn’t count as a distraction.
The Ghosts of Eden defies genre characterization. Mystery, thriller, romance, historical novel, or perhaps a better description is literary tour de force. An exceptionally well-written novel that, once begun, is hard to put down until you arrive almost breathlessly at the end – and as you close it, you say, that’s the way it should be.