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.
About the Author
Christopher Koch was born and educated in Tasmania. His paternal ancestors were part of the German Lutheran diaspora that arrived in South Australia in the 1840s. His Anglo-Irish maternal ancestors came to Tasmania in the same period. Most of his life has been spent in Sydney, where he worked for some years as a radio producer in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. He has been a full-time writer since 1972, winning international praise and a number of awards for his novels. One of his novels, The Year of Living Dangerously, was made into a film by Peter Weir. Koch has twice won the Miles Franklin Award for fiction: for The Doubleman and Highways to a War. In 1995 he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for his contribution to Australian literature.
Two strong narratives loosely linked, both lean on Tasmania’s history as a penal colony. Our panel very much enjoyed them, though the stories are sad, desperate and bleak.
Christopher Koch’s telling of the complexity of relationships and social norms in Tasmanian colonial and contemporary times and his vivid depiction of the rugged beauty of the Tasmanian landscape makes compelling reading. Lost Voices is a novel with many layers, a masterful blending of Tasmania’s past and present as revealed through the experiences of the protagonist, Hugh Dixon.