'Oscar Hopkins is an Oxford seminarian with a passion for gambling. Lucinda Leplastrier is a Sydney heiress with a fascination for glass. The year is 1864. When they meet on the boat to Australia their lives will be forever changed ...'
(Source: Publisher's website)
In England during the early 1800s, Oscar, a young but good-hearted misfit, believes that God has given him a sign to leave his father and his faith and join the Church of England while Lucinda, a teenaged Australian heiress, has a strong desire to liberate her sex from the confines of male-dominated culture. She buys a glass factory, and dreams of building a church made almost entirely of glass and then transporting it to the Australian outback. Oscar and Lucinda meet on a ship going to Australia; once there, they are each ostracised from society for different reasons, and join forces. Since both are passionate gamblers, Lucinda bets Oscar her entire inheritance that he cannot transport the glass church to the outback safely. Oscar accepts her wager, and this leads to the events that change both their lives forever.
'Our lives are made up of different arcs—love, family, politics, geography, time and dislocation among them. One of the arcs that has exercised me most is my wondering about post-colonising Australia and its myths and mythmaking propensities, also about my family’s.
'Although my childhood was spent mostly in Melbourne, it was punctuated by our frequent pilgrimages to the promised land (aka South Australia) and inflected by the awareness that Melbourne was exile to my South Australian mother—feelings I do not share. She often reminded us of our ‘free settler’ heritage, and of our roots in the colonial era, no more than a blink of time ago in the face of 50,000 or more years of Aboriginal occupation; my horror has only grown with the intervening years.
'We loved South Australia for our own reasons: for heat, our peerless great-grandmother, wild freedom and the beach. But an awareness of myth, of the stories we tell and the ways we frame present and past, was kindled. If there is an arc in this selection, it is that the postcolonial Australia that I first began to think about as a child—if only at the edges of my mind—is a myth. It always has been.' (Introduction)
'I first read Xavier Herbert’s remarkable novel Capricornia in 1972 – the year I was married – and it led to several heated discussions with my newly acquired father-in-law. Later I discovered that his grazier forebears had been – for their time – enlightened squatters. Around 1900, they commissioned Steele Rudd’s father, the ex-convict Thomas Davis, to write a memoir of his early days on the Darling Downs. As well as a frank account of frontier violence, it included an extensive glossary of Aboriginal words.' (Introduction)