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