the author’s family history adds weight to the sweeping story

Jones, a horse trainer herself with this second novel, exemplifies our unique devotion to these animals with the seductive Midwestern romanticism of Cormac McCarthy. All the pretty horses. Sometimes I felt like I was reading a western – the acrid landscapes of Western Australia, the Middle East and Indonesia are told with pinpoint, sometimes unsettling precision.


In 1938, two decades after his father’s return from the war, Tom finds himself in Padang, Sumatra, working as an accountant for a company in the former Dutch East Indies. The threat of a Japanese invasion grows year by year, but love prevails. Tom finds solace in the company of an Australian woman, named Alice. Will they stay together? Or will the war separate these two young lovers?

Although the power of the book is weakened by its slow plot, Jones holds the reader’s interest with its exquisite language. In this world, teeth move impactfully, passion fruit leaves are “little hands pressed against glass”.

Jones inserts his great-grandfather, Dirk Huisken, into the narrative near the end of the book – as an elderly man whom young Tom encounters as Japanese forces capture them to work as slaves on the British Columbia Railroad. death of Pekanbaru. Huisken lost his life there, in a Japanese POW camp, in March 1945.

While writing the book, Jones traveled to Sumatra to visit the site of the railway. There she found an iron spike, the little that remained of the line. She flew home to Australia with the tip, where she sat on her desk as she wrote Only birds above.

The object attached her to the place she tries to convey in her book – reading it, readers could feel the weight of the iron spike pressing down on their shoulders.

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