Outback Aussie action at Cicada Springs

Cicada takes you to Cicada Springs a remote cattle station set amongst the wild, rugged, vast Kimberly region of Western Australia. Now add to that mental image, a white English heiress and her husband who arrived in the era of post WWI uncertainty. William and Emily are the heads of the station and masters of all its employees. Their responsibility is to maintain control of the station’s animals and to take charge of the indigenous employees.  William and Emily arrived from the Motherland as newlyweds, virgin recipients of the inherited cattle station who are heady with the hope of spawning a new generation.

The first chapter opens with Lady Lidscombe in labour, in the throngs of delivering the awaited heir. However as the child arrives into this world, all hell breaks loose. In the immediate future, a violent chain of events unfold. There are two murders and Lady Lidscombe and her black maid Wirritjil flee into the desert. One of the women is accused of murder and the other woman is on the run from a murderer. Emily realises almost immediately that she will have to try to understand and trust the “savage” black woman or perish. At this stage there is an interesting exchange of power and Emily surrenders her power and control. Wirritjil uses her knowledge of the land, the dreamtime stories taught to her from Aboriginal elders and follows the songlines (the invisible paths etched by the songs of the dreaming into the landscape) of the desert to the sea. They find sanctuary in the desert rock caves, they listen to the stories of the animals, they interpret the evident geographic warnings. The reader learns of “skin names” and their significance in which Aborigines identify with every living thing. The women are pursued by troopers, trackers and “civilization” threatens their safety until the tale comes to a dramatic conclusion.

 This novel successfully captures the ridiculous stupidity of racism and the brutal ignorance of Colonialism. I wasn’t particularly taken by the plot, the characters, or the narrative tale of friendship in this novel because those components were engulfed, overpowered and absorbed by the magnificence of the Australian landscape which is beautifully portrayed. This novel is brimming with folklore, rich is description and the reader can almost feel the searing heat on their skin and feel the grains of coarse desert sand between their toes. A thought provoking Australian read for the patriotic month of January.