Dou­ble

Christo­pher Koch is a man of the world whose roots are deeply en­trenched in Tas­ma­nia, writes Stephen Romei

The Weekend Australian - Review - - In Profile -

ex­tend­ing to in­fin­ity un­der a huge sky. Out in the north-west, Nor­folk Bay gleamed in the af­ter­noon sun, half-en­closed by a hook­like arm of the penin­sula. Be­yond it in the north lay the mauve-grey hills of Forestier Penin­sula, linked to this one by the thin, just-vis­i­ble thread of Ea­gle­hawk Neck. On the east of both penin­su­las lay a blue and jade sea, with white cu­mu­lus clouds tow­er­ing above the hori­zon. Beaches and dark, wild capes re­ceded south in end­less suc­ces­sion, grow­ing minute with dis­tance, dwin­dling into noth­ing at the empty end of the world.

Lost Voices pur­sues themes that res­onate through Koch’s writ­ing: Tas­ma­nia, of course, as well as mys­ti­cism, the idea of dou­ble­ness and the fate of peo­ple caught in the tide of his­tory.

The novel cen­tres on the lives of two quest­ing young men, dis­tant rel­a­tives, a cen­tury apart. In 1950s Ho­bart, Hugh Dixon is in his fi­nal year of high school. He is no good at maths, which is a bit of a dis­ap­point­ment to his ac­coun­tant fa­ther, but is a skil­ful drawer and has dreams of be­com­ing a comic book il­lus­tra­tor or per­haps even an artist. When his fa­ther loses £100 on a horse, money that was not his to gam­ble, Hugh ap­proaches his es­tranged great-un­cle, Wal­ter Dixon, a wealthy lawyer, and ar­ranges a fam­ily-sav­ing loan.

Wal­ter takes Hugh un­der his wing, and so it is that the young man learns of the fam­ily con­nec­tion to a no­to­ri­ous gang of bushrangers who tried to es­tab­lish a utopian community in the Tas­ma­nian hills in the 1850s. Wal­ter’s

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