Review | Wednesday 26 September 2012
Two-time Miles Franklin Award-winner Christopher Koch has written another masterpiece, this time set in the wilds of Tasmania. Hugh Dixon returns to the Hobart of his youth and sees the streets through a haze of memory. Through flashbacks to the days of bushrangers, we revisit Hugh as a young man starting to make his way in the world.
There is a meandering sense of history interlaced with community in Lost Voices: friends and family intersect, and the landscape of Hobart emerges from the past, overlapping the present and the future.
I don’t want to give too much away as the narrative is so expertly woven by Koch that each word and sentence forms a brilliant picture as you read. In the first part you may not be quite sure where it’s going, but by the last page it’s like the final puzzle piece clicks into place and all makes perfect sense.
Despite the well-researched historical setting there is still something almost fairytale about this novel. The characters are conflicted between what they think is right and wrong, and, for the ‘bad guys’, the evil is so pure and distilled that it took me quite by surprise. The question is, who wins? And in the end, does anyone really win?
Historical fiction is difficult to do well without becoming overly sentimental or using hindsight too much to validate what people and communities did. However, Koch walks that line with astonishing ease and not only creates a memorable tale of good and evil but offers an insight into a little crack in Australia’s past and possibly our future.