Wednesday, January 20, 2010
To Touch the Clouds
Author Peter Watt’s knowledge of the history of his native Australia infuses his novels with authenticity. I first met Peter last year. A friend of mine had attended a writing seminar that the author was conducting, and when my pal learned that I loved Wilbur Smith’s novels, he recommended I give Peter Watt’s a try. That is one recommendation I’m very glad I followed!
To Touch the Clouds is the latest chapter in the ongoing saga of the Duffy and Macintosh clans. The tale began in Cry of the Curlew, and the opening scenes of that novel were gripping. The government-sanctioned massacre of a tribe of native Australians was openly supported by one immigrant family, and the other was caught in the crossfire. That tragic event was the catalyst for hostilities between the two families which would last for generations. Some thought it was more than the terrible crime of a bygone day which kept the feud and the bad luck going. Some remembered the curse, and believed.
In To Touch the Clouds, cousins Alexander Macintosh and Michael Duffy are sent to German controlled New Guinea on an undercover mission. The Macintoshes have extensive business dealings with the Germans but as Europe balances on the precipice of war, suspicions abound. What these cousins don’t realize is that they are being betrayed by someone very close to them. Who is plotting their failure and deaths? Is it Yank, New Zealander, German cousin, or perhaps another Australian? And will their mission succeed, or will their lives or freedom be forfeited? And what will become of Alexander’s troubled sister Fenella, who is suspected of murder? The author keeps his readers guessing until the very end.
I have been privileged to read several of Peter Watt’s novels thus far, and as in the others, this story is full of engaging characters with very human qualities. Interwoven in this story are tales of passionate love between man and woman, and the fierce love of parent for child. There are hate-filled plots and humorous anecdotes of friendship. Peter has the ability to convey real emotion; whether love, loathing, contempt, greed or camaraderie. He is gifted with insight into the inner workings of both the male psyche and the mind of a woman. As his friend, I can tell you truthfully that this author has keen intuition. Peter knows people, and that is the first and most telling mark of an excellent writer. When his familiarity with the histories of Australia and New Guinea are added to the mix, To Touch the Clouds is guaranteed not to disappoint the reader. Although this novel stands on its own, I recommend you read the whole Duffy/Macintosh series from start to finish if you get the chance. And don’t despair. A little bird told me there is yet another episode in the works. I can’t wait, for more than the obvious reason.
I’ve been promised a nice long letter when it’s done!