Secrets of the Sea by Nicholas Shakespeare - review by Francis King

Francis King

In Tasmania

Secrets of the Sea


Harvill Secker 402pp £19.99

After he had written an acclaimed biography of his friend Bruce Chatwin, Nicholas Shakespeare took himself off to Tasmania in an effort, he declared, to escape from the gravitational pull of a subject that had for a time totally dominated his life. But the effort was only in part successful. Chatwin’s best book was his first, In Patagonia. The title Shakespeare chose for the book he wrote during this period, In Tasmania, clearly referred back to that work, and Shakespeare’s book is also a fascinating mixture of history, travelogue, autobiography and, one strongly suspects, fiction. Now he has produced a novel that has the same setting, and might have been given the same subtitle, as the earlier book: ‘Adventures at the End of the World’.

Constantly buffeted by these adventures, as the former penal colony is constantly buffeted by storms and high winds, the two central characters have suffered childhood bereavements so traumatic that their eventual marriage and attempts to be happy together in a farm on the edge of a ‘one-horse town where even

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