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White Earth Paperback – January 1, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Press (January 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1569474419
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569474419
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.7 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,222,747 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Playing with genre expectations, McGahan's layered, impressive book (after 1988 and Praise) begins as a child's tale, takes on shades of the horror story and, in its most surprising shift, becomes a tragedy of Australian history. Set in Australia's Queensland province, the novel begins with the blaze of 70 acres of wheat, a conflagration that consumes nine-year-old William's father and sends the boy and his mother packing to his great-uncle John McIvor's rotting mansion on the arid plains of what was once a vast sheep ranch. Chapters alternate between William settling into his new existence (action set in the early 1990s), and the story of John's youth on the ranch, where as the son of the ranch manager he nurtured ambitions to one day own the estate. John recruits William's help in organizing a rally for his right-wing group, which opposes the proposed Native Title laws that would return Aboriginal-claimed land to the original inhabitants. The novel's first half is a slow build, the second half, a well-wrought, meditative reflection on Australia's colonialist demons, brings the book's gothic intimations home to roost. William must discover for himself the horrors that John's beloved land conceals and the original sin that lurks in Australia's past. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Critics describe The White Earth as a neo-Dickensian novel, replete with layered stories, flashbacks, crumbling mansions, family secrets, strange deaths, ghosts, deception, and even a suspicious old housekeeper. Yet they agree that the Australia Will inhabits is far darker than any world Dickens ever depicted. The heart of the novel is a tragic chapter in Australian history: the relocation and genocide of the Aborigines. Though the characters serve as mouthpieces for differing views on the question of land rights, their beliefs, conflicts, and relationships ring true. Some purple prose and the hefty moral weight of the novel bogged down only one reviewer; the rest saw The White Earth as an important, haunting lesson.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on June 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
Set on the plains of Queensland, Australia, this award-winning novel defies genre. It is, on various levels, the epic struggle of white farmers to tame a land which has a life of its own, an historical record of the genocide of the native aborigine population, a murder mystery, and the Gothic study of a man who lets his obsession with a particular piece of land control his life. But it is also the coming of age story of a young boy who may one day represent a fresh new spirit--one of respect for the earth, its history, and all the people who have walked it.

William is an eight-year-old when the novel opens in 1992. Upon the death of his father in an explosion and fire on the family farm, William and his mother move to Kuran Station, a remote area west of Brisbane, where William's great-uncle John McIvor owns a huge farm. The farm's once-grand manse is now a decrepit, falling-down ruin, where John McIvor, having alienated his entire family, lives alone, except for a disagreeable housekeeper. McIvor, wanting to see if William might be a suitable heir, orders William to explore the land, feel its spirit, and understand its soul. In various episodes, William finds sacred places and sees visions--of a man on fire, an axe murder, a long-dead explorer, and the mythical bunyip.

William's story alternates with that of John McIvor as a young man in the late 1920s. His father, Daniel, "a hard man," was long-time manager of the Kuran Station farm, even participating in the resettlement of the aborigines, but when the Depression hits, Daniel is fired and the family is banished. John vows that someday he will become the owner of the Kuran Station, and he subordinates every aspect of his life to achieving that goal.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on April 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In Australia, "the Bush" is something more than just wild places - it's anyplace outside the city. It's also an attitude - and from attitude comes politics and law. The law, in this case, is over the question of the Native Title Act. Nearly two centuries ago, the British government declared Australia "terra nullius" - uninhabited by human beings. Over the years, white settlers displaced and murdered the "non-existent" Aborigine people, occupying vast leases of "undeveloped" land. The 20th Century brought a new sense of justice and new legislation to help restore Aborigine access to their sacred places. Whites, fearing displacement of their own, formed resistance groups to fight the new law. This book summarises all that extensive and complex history through two lives - John McIvor and his nephew William.

McGahan provides a gripping story, ranging over several generations. It's not always a pretty story. In fact, much of this book is set in the grim environment of the battling squatter. John McIvor has struggled for years to own and occupy the vast holdings of Kuran Station. There's no small irony in the station being named for an Aborigine tribe. Those former occupants are long gone, however, and McIvor's new enemies are drought, bushfires, Native Title, and his own daughter. Fire brings his nephew William into his life at a critical time. William's father has succumbed to a blaze and John takes in William and his mother. It's not simple charity or even family ties underlying this move. John McIvor has long-reaching plans for William. He wants to introduce the boy to the land and its responsibilities. The selection, like most such holdings, is vast and the task of working them is immense

Although but nine years old, William has wisdom beyond his years.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Eight-year-old William's life irrevocably changes, when one day he watches his father die in a freak farming accident. Confused and perplexed, the farm laden with debts, William is told by his sickly mother that they will no longer be able to afford to carry their farm deep within the Darling Downs, North Western Queensland alone. Their savior comes in the form of John McIvor, a mysterious uncle, who appears to be willing to take both of them in, offering them refuge in Kuran House, a stately old squatter mansion.

Once owned by the White family, a dynasty of wealthy pasturalists, Kuran House has unfortunately seen better days. Now a crumbling down ruin, the huge manor house has been reduced almost to ruins, with the aging John McIvor the only tenant. The running of what is left of the property is left to Mrs. Griffith, a morose and elderly housekeeper.

McIvor is a desperate man. His entire life's work entailed claiming ownership to the Kuran property, and now he is desperate to find an heir to his fading dynasty. With his hopes resting on William, McIvor embarks on a program of education, instilling into his young protégé, the history of the house and it's vast surrounds; even allowing William to take the rest of the year off from school. But John is not prepared to hand over the property without William proving himself first, and although, William's mother, is desperate for security and a better life, William has to perform for his uncle; he has to show that he is sympathetic to the values and morals of his conservative heritage.
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