Half aborigine and half white, Jimmie Blacksmith is unable to fit into either culture and, after abuse and betrayal by whites, revolts in a spree of violence.
The basic story is not unique. Half aborigine and half Anglo, Jimmie Blacksmith grows up in aborigine culture. Because he is light-skinned, however, he is able to obtain jobs on white landholdings more readily than other aborigines, and there he is exposed to Anglo culture--with all its stated, good intentions, but its sometimes patronizing attitudes and selfish goals. After being worked hard and cheated from his earnings repeatedly, Jimmie snaps, visiting on his former employers the kind of "justice" which has so often been dealt to their employees. As vigilantes and police join forces to apprehend Jimmie, we see all the conflicting attitudes toward life and justice which undermine the creation of a unified, fair society.
The throbbing drumbeat of Jimmie's chants and Keneally's insistent narrative pace combine with our revulsion toward Jimmie's actions, to catch us up in the emotions of both the pursuers and the pursued. Our understanding of Jimmie and our empathy with him make us long for his redemption at the same time that we are anxious for justice to take place. Keneally's resolution is brilliant, fittingly combining the best elements of both of Jimmie's worlds. This is a wonderful novel which deals with a complex and sensitive subject without polemics or convenient, easy solutions, and it's as relevant today as it was when it was written. Mary Whipple
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