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4 out of 5 (1 rating)


This is a story that can only be told in a whisper... In the remote outback of Western Australia, English anthropologist Nicholas Keene and his wife Stella raise a curious child, Perdita.

Her childhood is far from ordinary; a shack in the wilderness, with a distant father burying himself in books and an unstable mother whose knowledge of Shakespeare forms the backbone of the girl's limited education.

Emotionally adrift, Perdita develops a friendship with an Aboriginal girl, Mary, with whom she will share a very special bond.

She appears content with her unusual family life in this remote corner of the globe until Nicholas Keane is discovered murdered...


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This is the story of Perdita Keene, the only child of two unsuitable parents, Nicholas, who is unhappy with being sent into the outback to research aboriginal culture instead of having a prestigious university job and Stella, who is obsessed with Shakespere and mentally fragile. Perdita spends her days with Mary, an aboriginal girl and Billy, who does not talk and is considered to be not all there. She's unaware of the oddity of her life, living in a shack in the bush surrounded by mouldering books and walls plastered with newspaper pictures of the war. Everything changes when her father is murdered.This was an odd little book. Jones' has a lyrical writing style, and here she writes from the narrow point of view of a young girl with a limited experience of the world. The world of the Australian outback and Perth during the Second World War is vividly described. Perdita's an outsider by both circumstances and nature, and her observations are those of someone on the outside. The book simultaneously places the reader apart from the people and events described, while always staying in close proximity to Perdita. I liked this book quite a bit, but prefer her later novel, <i>Five Bells</i> which is less constrained.

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