SUSAN ELDERKIN IS one of our twenty brightest young hopes, according to the recent Granta parlour game. And she richly deserves her place, given the range, strength, gustiness and sheer verve of her second novel, The Voices. A story that centres around the painful act of Aboriginal male circumcision might make a male reviewer's eyes water, and other parts shrivel, but it expands the mind and the imagination over the vast and inscrutable Australian wilderness with a power that recalls Bruce Chatwin at his best (ie when he is not showing o@, or even Patrick White.
Billy Saint is a thirteen-year-old dreamer who lives in an isolated community in the Kimberleys and has a passion for wildlife and landscape. We follow his progress through ten years of struggle - metaphysical struggle,.for want of a better word.
One day, Billy hears the song of the spirit-child, a beautiful young girl, and is drawn into an alien world of Aboriginal myths and rites. Inevitably things go wrong. Billy's long expiation for primitive sin is the focus of the story.
Much of the backdrop is entrancing. Elderkin is fascinated with the world of male work and bonhng, in a way that immediately puts one in mind