Cal Flyn was very proud when she discovered that her ancestor, Angus McMillan, had been a pioneer of colonial Australia. However, when she dug deeper, she began to question her pride. McMillan had not only cut tracks through the bush but played a dark role in Australia's bloody history.
Angus McMillan had left the stark, windswept landscape of the Highlands in the 1830s, blighted by the Clearances, for the alien harshness of the Australian frontier and had since been mythologised as a great explorer. This tug of personal history and a glimmer of an ancestor's greatness convinced Cal Flyn to investigate her great-great-great-uncle's story fully. So when she uncovered the tough Highlander's involvement in leading several horrific massacres of Aboriginal people, she realised that her family had played an iconic role in a most shameful chapter of Australia's bloody history. Indeed, Angus McMillan was known by another name: the Butcher of Gippsland.
Driven to piece together his story and to confront her history, Cal decided to follow Angus' route from Skye to rural Australia. Thicker than Water evokes the startlingly beautiful wilderness of the Highlands, the seemingly empty bush of Victoria and the echoes and reverberations on one from the other. The expulsion and brutality that marked the Highland Clearances were reenacted in Australia, and Flyn's stunning prose prompts contemplation on the nature of the destruction of ways of life and the way in which one culture lays claim and asserts its weight over another.
Delving into a dark period in Australian history with a novel's immediate style, this book asks how whole societies can come to be overlooked, forgotten and shamed.
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