'To the Islands concerns the ordeal of Stephen Heriot, an elderly, careworn, and disillusioned Anglican missionary who abandons his mission when he mistakenly believes he has accidentally killed one of his Aboriginal charges in a not entirely unprovoked confrontation. Heriot flees into the desert not to escape justice but to embrace its desolate beauty and its elemental purity as the one objective reality and the one certainty left available to him.
Heriot's flight and his embrace of the desert may be seen as his attempt, as a European Australian, to immerse himself in the landscape, to make himself one with the land. At this realistic level, the novel enacts the ontological and existential dilemma that confronts most — if not all — European Australians, the dilemma that Professor Hassall [in his introduction to the 2002 UQP Australian Authors version] defines as the continuing quest for psychic integration, for reconciliation with indigenous Australians, and with the land itself.'
Wells-Green, James. [Untitled Review.] JAS Review of Books 15 (May 2003)
'Collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous practitioners in Australian writing has a long and fraught history, and appropriation remains a serious issue in the Australian publishing industry today. At the same time, however, positive instances of collaboration, particularly in contemporary writing, have shown its capacity to produce rich and nuanced cultural outcomes. This article is part of a developing project aiming to investigate collaborations like these and their related industry outcomes. It looks to feel out some of the complexities around Indigenous/non-Indigenous collaboration, considering as a starting point Randolph Stow’s work with Daniel Evans, which led to the publication of “The Umbali Massacre […] As told to him by Daniel Evans” in the Bulletin in 1961. As a case study, it has several interesting features: the context of Stow’s work with Indigenous peoples and his friendship with Evans; Evans’s direct contribution to Stow’s Miles Franklin Award–winning To the Islands (1958); Stow’s failure to properly acknowledge Evans in the novel’s frontmatter; and his subsequent appropriation of Evans’s voice in the Bulletin piece, even while advocating for Indigenous sovereignty. As such, it illustrates both the dangers and the potential of Indigenous/non-Indigenous collaboration as a dual inheritance in the industry today.' (Publication abstract)
'Unlike many city-dwelling Australians, the desert holds no terrors for me. Instead, like DH Lawrence, I find the cathedral forests of the coastal regions oppressive and disquieting. Lawrence brought to his descriptions of the Australian bush the same overwrought sensitivity that created the claustrophobic emotional landscape of 'Sons and Lovers', and the appalling, majestic insularity of the Italian mountain village in 'The Lost Girl'. He was the writer who made explicit the sense of some non-human presence in the Antipodean landscape, and while I have a different interpretation of the 'speechless, aimless solitariness' he attributes to the country, his instincts were good.' (Publication abstract)
'Kangaroos are the most visible of Australia’s unique animals, but despite their charm and national icon status, Australian writers perpetually kill them off.' (Introduction)
'The novels I shall concentrate on in discussing messiahs and millennia in Stow's work are To the Islands, Tourmaline, Visitants, and The Girl Green as Elderflower. Tourmaline and Visitants are the two which most clearly relate to millenarian themes. Tourmaline records the growth, and collapse, of a millenarian cult centred on the messianic or would-be messianic figure of the diviner Michael Random. Visitants is a structurally more complex exploration of three millenarian visions and their communal and personal repercussions, although the connotations of the title are not restricted to cargo or flying saucer cults.' (Publication abstract)