A Haunted Land

May 4, 2007 at 8:28 am Leave a comment

I’m afraid this blog is about to begin with a bit of a Randolph Stow fest, as I am beginning a thesis chapter on him and reading, or rereading, everything I can get my hands on. But a Randolph Stow fest is not a bad thing, as I think he is one of Australia’s best, and most neglected, writers. His work was introduced to me by the lovely Marianne Mackintosh, and I am very grateful. A Western Australian, Stow made a huge impression on the Australian literary scene as a young prodigy in the 1950s, but his production rate slowed down over the years as he didn’t want to publish just for the sake of it. He left Australia long ago and now lives a reclusive life in East Anglia. In the past he has taught at both Adelaide (my old University) and Leeds (my current one).

A Haunted Land (1956) is not as good as his later novels, but as it was published when he was only 21, it is pretty impressive. It is the story of an intense, insular family on a remote farm in Western Australia. It’s kind of a cross between Voss and Brideshead Revisited. The Australian landscape is evoked deftly, but serves as a background for the real story of grief, charisma, madness and destruction centred around the father Andrew Maguire. This is an early example of Stow’s fascination with magnetic figures who both enchant and damage those around them, which will be explored to a frightening intensity in Tourmaline.


Entry filed under: Randolph Stow.

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