“Love on the Run” reviewed by Maurice Thibaux

August 1, 2008 at 12:29 pm (Commentary) (, , , , , , , )

Comments on “Love on the Run” by Andrew Marke  Available from: Frogmouth Press, 187 Low Head Road, Low Head Tas 7253  $25 or $30 Posted
Having worked in Papua New-Guinea at the time of independence, I was curious to read this new book about this place and time, apart from the teaser about “a remedy for sex and romance”. The title and cover of the book hinted at a series of romantic encounters and promised to be quite exciting. Not surprisingly it starts as an account of an English expatriate’s life taking us from a farm in Somerset to the Falklands and Papua New-Guinea. The link to these remote and exotic locations is love, but it turned out to be definitely on the run. As soon as we hit PNG, love virtually disappears from the scene and we are immersed in the lonely life of a malaria eradication officer trekking through the Highlands. Having been to Goroko and Mount Hagen in the early 1970s, I was very keen to revisit this strange place, which I had enjoyed only too briefly, and read this vivid account of daily life amongst these tribes from another age in this most extraordinary landscape of snow peaks under the equator. But I kept looking back at the cover, which promised love and romance, of which there was precious little except for the reason for travelling – perhaps to escape or to forget. I felt a bit cheated, although I did not mind it that much since the story was quite exciting but not exactly as I had anticipated. Right from the first line, the book is very lively and the author has an uncanny sense of humour and ability to write gripping dialogues and short and sharp descriptions. Every detail is genuine in substance and in feelings. It never dwells on the missed opportunity or mistake and keeps taking us towards new sensations and adventures.
But midway through the book, after a delightful but too short episode back in England, the pace suddenly lifts when the hero decides to try his luck in mainland Australia to find a wife with a vengeance. The first part of the book was just the premises to his quest for sex and romance, which would have been meaningless without some understanding of loneliness in  these remote parts of the world, where alcohol is often the only consolation concentrating around the expats club. The author takes us through a whirlwind search for the elusive woman of his dreams. Each episode is more fascinating than the previous one and the hero seems to have endlessly imaginative and ingenious ways to meet women, although he sometimes gets more than he bargains for, leading to many hilarious situations. But, at other times, it is very moving. When he takes the young girl Molly on a trip to Tasmania where his new posting takes him, there is hope that he would eventually find happiness with the mother. She does reappear later, as we approached the end of the book, but the story takes a different twist and sees him back in PNG for another weird episode where the book leaves us gasping for volume two.
The first part of the book is substantially different from the second part and the two don’t seem to connect fully to the point where, as soon as I had finished, I started reading it again to catch up on the bits I had missed. The hints are there but it is easy to miss them, the book being so rich in images and sensations, especially for anyone who  has ventured in these parts of the world or has emotional connection to them. It is easy to let one’s imagination run wild. 
This book should be a candidate for the Miles Franklin Prize. It is rare to see a book that takes us around the world from England to the Falklands, PNG before decolonisation, Queensland, Tasmania and Capital Territory and expresses so well the solitude of expatriates stranded between their British culture and the void of their adopted colonies at the end of an era and all the way to Australia. A rare and delightful book that can be recommended unreservedly. Can’t wait for the sequel.
Maurice Thibaux         mtxtrans@aapt.net.au
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1 Comment

  1. An Old Wellingtonian, A.C.T. Marke « Stories by David Wall said,

    […] A.C.T. Marke, 1952-8, Author of Love on the Run. […]

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