A Long Way From Home by Peter Carey ( first published in 2018 by Faber & Faber)
For some of us, the epic trek of the young protagonists in The Rabbit-Proof Fence is our strongest impression of the history of the Indigenous Australian people.
With his latest novel, Booker Prize-winning author Peter Carey delves into aspects of this history with the story of a very different journey: a long-distance car rally.
Carey explained in an interview with The Australian in October last year that it is because of his awareness of his limitations as a white writer that he has been hesitant until his mid-70s to address this chapter of the country’s history.
“On the other hand, you can’t be a white Australian writer and spend our whole life ignoring the greatest, most important aspect of our history, and that is that we — I — have been the beneficiaries of a genocide.
“It’s a black story; it’s also a white story. I just thought, ‘I can’t spend my life not writing about this, and if I make a dick of myself, well I will but at least I’m going to have a try’.”
His story revolves around the friendship between neighbours: housewife Irene Bobbs and teacher Willie Bachhuber – suspended after losing his temper with a student.
They are the narrators and centre of this complex, unpredictable story. When Irene and her husband decide to enter a cross-country rally, Willie is invited to join them as a navigator.
The journey is tough, emotional and full of obstacles as Irene struggles against the prejudice that she faces as a female driver in the 1950s.
At the same time, Willie realises the truth about his own background as a mixed-race Australian and is drawn to discover more about the culture he was removed from as a child.
Carey’s unexpected, vivid and at times unsettling story is written with all the mastery of a writer with a lifetime of creative and critical success behind him. The characters and relationships are unforgettable, and their struggles will resonate with many.