Young Hugh Dixon believes he can save his father from ruin if he asks his estranged great uncle Walter –a wealthy lawyer living alone in the family’s Tasmanian farmhouse, for help. As he is drawn into Walter’s rarefied world, Hugh discovers that both his uncle and the farmhouse are links to a notorious episode in the mid 19th century.
Walter’s father, Martin, was living in the house when it was raided by members of an outlaw community run by Lucas Wilson, a charismatic ex-soldier attempting to build a utopia. But like later societies with communitarian ideals, Nowhere Valley was controlled by the gun, with Wilson as benevolent dictator. Martin’s sojourn in the Valley as Wilson’s disciple has become an obsession with Walter Dixon: one which haunts his present and keeps the past tantalizingly close.
This Tasmanian familial history impressed our group this month. Most everyone found the story and its writing well done and cleverly thought out. Often a book that continues to jump back and forth across a timeline can be distracting and lose its audience. Not so here. Koch, a proven skillful storyteller and writer, manages the task with great proficiency, weaving together a tale that is not only historically interesting but also compelling.
The attempt at a Utopia-style community in Nowhere Valley makes for interesting character growth and touches on all those fascinating social issues that are borne of communal living.
A few of us found the descriptive content a little too much, but the story was absorbing enough to keep them reading.
There was also some call for more detail concerning Hugh and his father’s relationship. Just enough to round out their connection, or lack of.
A worthy read for anyone loving history combined with a powerful ancestral account.