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Bettany's Book/Keneally, Tom/Paper/1864710047/S048-D1
I was the Englishman overcome with enthusiasm for a barbarous place... I walked a little way, barefooted, and then lay down in nakedness on loamy earth and began to scoop it up and inhale it. The earth groaned, so I thought, like the beloved, caressed... Evoking no surprise in me, the night moaned in its manner, and moaned again. I cried out in a kind of response, a young man, I now see, chaste, unworldly and purposeful, howling in the silver darkness.
so writes John Bettany as he exhilarates in the freedom and wildness of the Australian bush on his journey into the New South Wales of the 1840s. It is thoughts such as these, discovered in his personal journals and in the desperate letters of Sarah Bernard, the convict woman he is destined to love, that draw the sisters Dimp and Prim Bettany into the adventures of their ancestors one hundred and fifty years later.
When Sydney film producer Dimp Bettany discovers the memoirs, she is convinced she has finally found her next masterpiece. Prim, an aid worker in the Sudan who fled Australia following a disastrous love affair, cannot help becoming intrigued as, through Dimp's correspondence, the story unfolds of how John Bettany carved out a living in virgin territory under the eyes of the aboriginal Moth people, and of Sarah Bernard's internment in the notorious Female Factory, where her only friend was a murderess. As John's and Sarah's paths converge, each sister finds her life cast in a new and galvanising light.
In this compelling portrait of two generations and of two continents, Thomas Keneally's vibrant characters and vigorous prose bring both eras alive, as he captures the timeless quests, passions and moral dilemmas that unite them.