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It starts with Harriet at work at the university in Norwich.
A sudden phone call from an unknown party in Sydney.
"Your father's had a serious accident? I'm sorry to have to call you like this out of the blue?" said a lightly-accented male voice.
South African? Canadian? Who was he? Had he really said "out of the blue"? Harriet had never heard anyone use the phrase out loud. "Who are you?"
"Your father? In Sydney? Serious accident? Next of kin? You need to get here? Quick as you can?"
Everything a question. Lindsay? said Harriet, almost stunned into silence. She stared at the phone in her hand. "Lindsay?" she said finally, "Lindsay?" The caller had hung up.
"Go", says Barbara in the office. "Go!"
Within hours, Harriet is on a plane to Australia, terra australis incognita, a place she'd never visited. Hardly even thought of, if it came to it. A bit like her father, in fact.
The long-haul flight is torture and Harriet is half out of her mind. Her mother died a few years back and now her father, and she'd hardly set eyes on either for years and years and years.
Harriet is solitary, lives alone through choice. A small flat and a mortgage, inventing a life she can cope with. Without parental influence—although there are some things deep in you that you can't really escape. Safe—or almost. Holding her breath. Holding on.
Sydney turns out to mean cash, friends and sex—and a cat. And death, of course. The city and the back-blocks. Different worlds. Lindsay's glorious apartment near the sea in Sydney and a tiny cottage in a small town in the back-blocks of New South Wales. Dufftown.
Three separate worlds collide and Harriet is caught in between, questioning everything she thinks she knows and everything she has done in her life. Not to mention the dubious history of the British and some of their colonies. Cops and crims, squeaks Harriet's new friend. Cops and crims and forced assimilation—and rape. "That's our history! Didn't you know that? How come you didn't know that?"