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It is usu­ally women who are cred­ited with baby­hunger and the mis­ery that goes with des­per­ately want­ing a child but be­ing un­able to have one. In Sweet Old World, Robert­son con­sid­ers the long­ing of a man for a fam­ily.

Aus­tralian ex­pa­tri­ate David Quinn is turn­ing 43, sin­gle and seek­ing. In his cot­tage on the harsh Aran Is­land of Inish­more he fan­ta­sises about a baby snug­gled on his bed and re­as­sures him­self that there is still time. Now au­thor of ex­posés of gov­ern­ment and cor­po­rate stuff-ups, his phi­los­o­phy in life has been say­ing yes to ev­ery­thing – which may ex­plain the un­sat­is­fy­ing se­ries of long-term li­aisons now past that we glimpse as the novel un­folds.

David makes him­self re­spon­si­ble for a Fre­man­tle teenager, a hol­i­day ac­quain­tance of close friends, who dines at his house and has an ac­ci­dent on her

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