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Bring Larks and Heroes

by Thomas Keneally

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1522152,544 (3.5)7
"Set in a remote British penal colony late in the 1790s, Thomas Keneally's evocative writing gives a searing insight into the sun-parched settlement of hungry transports and corrupt soldiers." "Young Corporal Phelim Halloran is confronted by the harsh reality of his post and the demands made on him - by his secret bride, his Irish comrades, his superior officers and, most often, by his conscience."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved… (more)
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f you’re an Australian reader of this blog, you have to have been under a rock not to have seen Michael Heyward from Text Publishing as passionate champion of Australian classic literature. I think that Text’s new collection of Text Classics is a great initiative – and I especially like the way it fits nicely with my project to read all the Miles Franklin winners.

Bring Larks and Heroes won the Miles Franklin in 1967, the third novel in Thomas Keneally’s long and impressive career as an Australian novelist. Reading it is a little bit like finding an undiscovered Patrick White, because its style, to my surprise, is modernist – utterly unlike Keneally’s later novels that I’ve read: Schindler’s Ark a.k.a. Schindler’s List (which won the Booker in 1982); The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, (see my review); and The Widow and Her Hero (see my review). I think it would be most interesting to trace Keneally’s development as a writer through his entire oeuvre – but he’s such a prolific author, there’s a PhD in it, I am sure.

It was the religious allusions, the brutal imagery and that sharp adjective ‘futile‘ on the very first page that made me think of Patrick White:

The afternoon is hot in this alien forest. The sunlight burrows like a worm in both eye-balls. His jacket looks pallid, the arms are rotted out of his yellowing shirt, and, under the gaiters, worn for the occasion, the canvas shoes are too light for this knobbly land. Yet, as already seen, he takes long strides, he moves with vigour. He’s on his way to Mr Commissary Blythe’s place, where his secret bride, Ann Rush, runs the kitchen and the house. When he arrives in the Blythe’s futile vegetable garden, and comes mooning up to the kitchen door, he will, in fact, call Ann my secret bride, my bride in Christ. She is his secret bride. If Mrs Blythe knew, she would do her best to crucify him., though that he is a spouse in secret today comes largely as the result of a summons from Mrs Blythe six weeks ago. (p1)

That ironically named Mrs Blythe also reminded me of Patrick White’s savage characterisation of women in The Aunt’s Story. No wonder that His Excellency’s true motive for restricting his own household to the newly imposed ration is to ‘starve his own wife, short of killing her, until her pious gut cracked’(p3).

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2012/05/24/bring-larks-and-heroes-by-thomas-keneally/ ( )
  anzlitlovers | Aug 15, 2016 |
Reading Bring Larks and Heroes has once again brought to my mind the question: What's not to like about Thomas Keneally? A cheerful, avuncular presence on the Australian literary scene, his writing perfectly balances literacy and readability. And, thanks to Text Publishing's welcome decision to re-release a pile of Australia's 'lost classics', I've now had the pleasure of witnessing Keneally turn his skill to the dirty business of the 18th century penal colony. Specifically, the plight of marine officer Phelim Halloran, who valiantly struggles to hold onto integrity and hope in a place where there are none.

This book won Keneally his first Miles Franklin award in 1967, and deservedly so. ( )
  whirled | Aug 7, 2012 |
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"Set in a remote British penal colony late in the 1790s, Thomas Keneally's evocative writing gives a searing insight into the sun-parched settlement of hungry transports and corrupt soldiers." "Young Corporal Phelim Halloran is confronted by the harsh reality of his post and the demands made on him - by his secret bride, his Irish comrades, his superior officers and, most often, by his conscience."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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This novel is set in a remote British penal colony in the 1790s. It gives an insight into the settlement of hungry transports and corrupt soldiers, and tells the story of Corporal Phelim Halloran, and the demands made on him - by superior officers and, most often, by his conscience.
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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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