In the tradition of Melville and Stevenson, a superb storyteller — winner of the David Higham Prize for Fiction — brings literary art of great range and beauty to a South Seas epic. Two tales of passion and intrigue, from the 1890s and the 1990s, reach around the world from Canada, England and West Africa to converge in the Polynesian islands.
The story opens as a letter from Olivia, a Canadian filmmaker who writes from a Tahitian jail to the daughter she gave up for adoption at sixteen. Olivia’s search for her own father, an airman missing since the Korean War, has brought her to the South Seas and landed her in prison on a trumped-up murder charge. The other main strand of the novel — based on fact — is told in the secret diaries of Frank to have been Jack the Ripper. Frank is driven to write down what he knows when he begins to suspect there are people who wish him out of the way.
As she fights to get out of jail, Olivia recalls her own childhood in the English house where Henderson once lived. There, while packing up the family home after her mother’s death, she finds Henderson’s old papers and learns of links between herself and him that she had never known, links that explain her mother’s behaviour and her father’s disappearance.
Written with a deep understanding of the landscape and culture of the South Sea islands, Henderson’s Spear is at once a moving study of loss — of a parent, a child, a past — and an exploration of historical forces that nearly extinguished a people and still threaten us today. Ronald Wright’s deft touch and luminous prose make this rich, powerful novel utterly compelling.
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