Scribner, Feb 2004, 24.00, 288 pp.
She is a famous well respected author living in the heart of London but her roots are in the Outback of Australia in a small town called Bundaroo. She grew up there in between the two World Wars and even at sixteen her teachers and other adults in the community knew she was meant for the outside world. At her high school graduation, something horrific happened to Bettina Whitelaw and all she wanted to do was get away from the town she once loved.
Now in her eighties, Bettina is writing a fictionalized account of her life and the only person who knows the Bettina from Australia is her lifelong friend Hughie, a misfit she adopted when his parents moved from England to Bundareo. One day when she comes back from an outing, she realizes someone was in her flat looking on her desk. When she goes to Scotland for a vacation with her brother and daughter, the police calls her home because the woman who was house sitting for her was viciously attacked and lies in a coma. Bettina does not have a clue as to who could have done such a thing but believes there is a link between this crime and the break-in.
The heroine is a very interesting and complex character but readers will find it difficult to warm up to her because she has almost always put her own needs first. Robert Barnard uses flashbacks at times as a means of allowing the audience to see the heroine in the winter of 1938 and experience the events that caused her to become self-reliant, independent and touchingly vulnerable.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner