authordellbrand Publishing 2022
Reviewed by Lily Andrews for Reader Views
“Darwin” by Dell Brand is a searing historical family saga set from 1919 to 1974. The story begins with Grace, a young naive bride from England who comes to Australia to live with her husband, Charles Dalton. Dalton, who hailed from a prosperous family owning large sheep ranches in the South of Australia, was a World War 1 veteran who retired early after getting wounded. His haughty father soon sends Dalton off with his young wife to one of the family’s stations in Darwin, an isolated coastal town in North Australia, to develop a cattle business.
Dalton, whose racial bigotry stands in the way of his success and that of his growing family, must learn to collaborate with those that he settles around, including blacks and half-castes, to receive the assistance he needs to get things done. Over time, new family members and natives in Darwin are introduced into the family tree such as Eddie Wong, a Chinese, and Henrick Bakker, a Dutch-Indonesian-born pilot. Written in the first-person narrative, the story transcends across different characters giving a multi-faceted portrait of the perspectives, attitudes, and feelings over the years.
Author Dell Brand deftly handles complex themes such as racial prejudice and what it was like in Australia during the War years. The book further sheds light on the effects of the White Australia Policy enacted in 1901 and its eventual dismantling years later. Further, catastrophes such as Cyclone Tracy and its devastating effects on the Dalton family and Australia as a country are adroitly featured in the text. These historical events provide a rich backdrop for the story as they are brought to life. The author displays impressive world-building skills as evocative landscapes and terrains are brought to life through lyrical prose.
Needless to say, author Brand is a true minstrel at work. This book exquisitely highlights the foibles of human life and the possible redemption of these frailties. One of the book’s strengths is the intensity, drama, and plausibility of the narrative, which further cements the reader’s interest in the fictional family’s journey. Indeed, “Darwin” is a beautifully rendered five-star narrative that provides insight into the complexities of family dynamics and is one not to be missed.