'In late 1963, Rodney Hall – an aspiring but unpublished poet and novelist – travelled through Greece’s Saronic islands with his wife and their infant daughter. Shortly after Christmas they found themselves on the island of Hydra, where they fell into the company of expatriate Australian writers George Johnston and his wife Charmian Clift, whose time on the island was drawing to a close after nearly a decade. The Johnstons, their marriage precariously holding together amid a ruinous trail of alcohol, infidelity, and public brawling, did as they had done so often before – cast aside their personal troubles and embraced their fellow Australians with immense personal warmth, hospitality, and charisma. As Hall remembers, ‘they were lovely, they were so warm, and welcoming, and funny and clever, and it was just instant friendship, we just loved them.’' (Introduction)
A Tear in the Soul is a fine example of creative non-fiction that unfolds a personal story but also advances our knowledge of Australian society, past and present. It is a nuanced contribution to the growing body of literature in which contemporary non-Indigenous Australians attempt to make sense of the history of white settlement and take responsibility for our own complicity in the past and current treatment of Indigenous peoples. In combining a personal quest to reconnect to her past with an exploration of 1960s Kalgoorlie and a moral self-examination, Webster has written a book in which story and idea interweave to engage and move us, even while we are forced to confront disturbing material.
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