Lost Voices

Christopher Koch

Lost Voices
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Lost Voices

Christopher Koch

Twice winner of the Miles Franklin Award and an Officer of the Order of Australia for his contribution to Australian literature, Christopher Koch returns with Lost Voices, a remarkable new novel that confirms him as one of our most significant and compelling novelists. Twice winner of the Miles Franklin Award, Christopher Koch returns with a remarkable novel of gripping narrative power. Young Hugh Dixon believes he can save his father from ruin if he asks his estranged great-uncle Walter- a wealthy lawyer who lives alone in a tasmanian farmhouse passed down through the family-for help. As he is drawn into Walter’s rarefied world, Hugh discovers that both his uncle and the farmhouse are links to a notorious episode in the mid nineteenth century. Walter’s father, Martin, was living in the house when it was raided by members of an outlaw community run by Lucas Wilson, a charismatic ex-soldier attempting to build a utopia. But like later societies with communitarian ideals, Nowhere Valley was controlled by the gun, with Wilson as benevolent dictator. twenty-year-old Martin’s sojourn in the Valley as Wilson’s disciple has become an obsession with Walter Dixon: one which haunts his present and keeps the past tantalizingly close. As Walter encourages Hugh’s ambition to become an artist, and again comes to his aid when one of Hugh’s friends is charged with murder, the way life’s patterns repeat themselves from one generation to another becomes eerily apparent. Dramatic, insightful and evocative, Lost Voices is an intriguing double narrative that confirms Koch as one of our most significant and compelling novelists.

Review

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.


Kate Rockstromis a Classical Specialist at Readings Carlton. She regularly performs as a flautist as well as writing about music and books, follow her at www.stonestream.net.

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