Lands Beyond The Sea
This multi-generational saga of the clash of cultures in Australia begins 50,000 years ago, exploring the lives of the indigenous hunter-gatherers, richly detailing their life in all its complexity, in later chapters even addressing such issues as tribal warfare and infanticide, never stooping to noble savage clichés.
The author then fast-forwards to 18th-century England, bringing us back to familiar saga territory. Young Jonathan Cadwallader, an earl, says goodbye to his low-born sweetheart, Susan, a Cornish fisherman’s daughter, and sets sail on Captain Cook’s ship Endeavor to Tahiti. Eventually the ship reaches the great southern continent of Australia. Three long years later Jonathan returns—a week after Susan has succumbed to social pressure and married the local vicar. Unable to keep himself away from his beloved, he and Susan embark on an affair, which prompts Susan’s husband to move the family to the new convict settlement in New South Wales where Susan’s brother, a smuggler, has been transported. Even as Susan seeks to find meaning in her new life of hardship and service to the community, the secrets of her past threaten to undo her.
Despite the strong early chapters, the storyline is steeped in melodrama at the expense of character development, with too many gratuitous-rape-scenes-as-plot-devices. Also the dialogue often feels forced and incongruous to the historical setting.