Life choices on the line
its broad issues-driven social realism punctuated by events relayed by a middle-class carousel of boomer characters who are all (often obnoxiously) given a chance to tell us their side of the story.
Lang’s novel tells of a small farming district town that recently has been transformed by a flood of tree-changers, retirees and wealthy developers and is having to decide whether a proposed dam is going to fix or ruin everything. The events are fairly clever in their construction and interweave well, but are just stages on which the various romantic and political dramas can play out: friends fighting, spouses cheating and dying, the works. This is a book of human beings.
Hinterland aims to interrogate humanity, or at least a small bubble in the swirls of humanity’s torrents and rapids, trying hard to capture something of our present moment, nationally and globally. It is manifestly “about” capitalism, environmentalism, political systems and the inevitable clashes of culture that occur between Western people with too much money and time and not much meaning in their lives. As one of its many narrator characters ponders when visiting and observing an elderly town resident, she is living “for who knows what rea-
WHEN ORR REALLY NAILS IT, HIS WRITING IS PIERCING, BRUTAL, POWERFUL
son. Although that could be said about most of us.”
Lang lives in Maleny, a picturesque backcountry town in Queensland, much like the setting for his novel, the fictional Winderran, and he has some insight into the bustle and pettifogging that can smog a small, newly capitalised Australian burg.
His characters bitch and moan, both openly and inwardly, and we are present for the ingloriousness. There’s a distinct gender binary present in the novel, in more ways than one: Lang’s men are routinely awful throughout, and his women not awful in comparison but also not much of anything else, except definitely more corporeal (we are given much more information about their bodies and looks than we are the