An albumful of vividly realized characters bounces into the Australian town of Trafalgar at the turn of the century, all of them Irish, all of them related by blood or by that more ambiguous bond, the spirit. Forebears of characters in the author's two earlier novels, The Harp in the South and Poor Man's Orange (which St. Martin's will also reissue this year), their toilsome lives are beatified by love and the bit of themselves they give up each day for those closest to them. Central are Hugh Darcy and his crippled younger brother Jeremiah, an albatross clinging to Hugh's willing back when, at 14, he beats up their abusive father and leaves home. Although Jer is a burden when Hugh wants to go off with a girl or moves from town to town to find work, he is an authentic charmer, funny, fanciful, gifted with song, and an excellent cook and tailor. Eventually the two return to Trafalgar for their father's funeral and reintroduction to Margaret Kilker, the girl Hugh will eventually marry. But Hugh's penchant for women and the bottle make him a poor prospect and Margaret must wait many years until she becomes a ``Missus.'' The fortunes of these characters are so skillfully interwoven, their histories so sparingly and cogently set forth, that it is as though a brilliant draftsman had in a few lines captured an entire population. This first novel of the trilogy will leave readers eagerly awaiting the succeeding volumes. (February 16)
Park, author of The Harp of the South and Poor Man's Orange (1948, 1949), here creates the early lives of Hugh Darcy and other familiar characters from those novels. First published in Australia in 1985, this book brings to life such vivid individuals as Hugh, the brawling, charming working man who is always putting off his marriage to Margaret Kilker just a little longer; Jer, his brother, the introspective and calculating cripple who manipulates everyone to protect his own interests; Margaret, the long-suffering sweetheart who will have Hugh and no one else though she doesn't know quite why. These turbulent children of Irish immigrants to Australia interact passionately in a novel that will please new readers as much as those already interested in the Darcy saga. The original novels will be reissued this year. Recommended for public libraries. Judith Nixon, Purdue Univ. Lib., W. Lafayette, Ind.