From Publishers Weekly
A worthy successor to the prize-winning Just Relations, Hall's second novel to appear in this country is shorter and tighter, with the same mythical, almost mystical quality of an Australian legend, here distilled to the rambling memories of apparently senile Patrick Murphy. Patrick is outraged by the deathbed confession, in 1956, of Barney Barnett, a contemporary who was once betrothed to Patrick's sister Ellen. Barney says that 58 years ago he committed the brutal murders of three of Patrick's siblings: Norah, 27, Ellen, 18, and Michael, 29. (Hall uses an actual, unsolved murder case of 1898 and the real victims' names; no culprit was ever found.) Barnett's confession, a final try for some kind of fame or glory, is exposed as a hoax; he makes a grave error of fact and the Sydney police inspector grunts in disgust. "Good luck to you, Barney!" Patrick thinks. "Even though it failed, this was better than nothing." Patrick's inner monologue does not at first reveal what he knows about the murders, although it's plain he knows a lot. As he ranges through his memories, describing childhood events from 70 years before, we are caught up in an extraordinary family of 10 children who lived with their tall, silent parents on a farm called Paradise, far away in the Australian farmlands. The vivid, poetic language Hall places on Patrick's tonguethe sheer blarney of himbinds us in enchantment. The man is so magic that when the true facts of a certain night in 1898 are told, the solution of the whodunit doesn't matter; there are situations where justice is not straightforward. A provocatively interesting narrative written in extraordinary, singing prose, this novel should confirm Hall's reputation as a writer of exceptional talent.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Library Journal
In 1898 three of the ten Murphy children were found brutually murdered on the Australian frontier, an unsolved crime that became one of the great mysteries of the age. In this fictional account, youngest brother Patrick reconstructs the events 60 years later and offers a shocking solution. He remembers his father's farm as a juvenile slave labor camp; the real mystery is how anyone managed to sneak away long enough to get killed. Still, there was something comforting about the state of total oppressionhence the book's title. This deceptively slim novel, based on historical records, addresses most of the big issues of the century: imperialism, sexism, godlessness, and world war. A radical departure from Just Relations ( LJ 1/1/83), Hall's first novel, but just as good. Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.