(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Keneally has often taken on themes which have moved him not simply because of their artistic potential but because they have touched him personally. Usually this impetus does not create a problem, though sometimes if he feels very strongly about a subject he may develop his ideas in a nonfiction format, as he did for Outback (1983).

It must be acknowledged that a novel is not necessarily a success simply because it expresses admirable ideas or champions humane solutions to difficult moral problems. As a work of art, it is more than its content. Keneally has, usually, wanted to send a message in his novels, but he has also understood the necessity of incorporating that message into the story. This novel, however, poses the question of whether or not he has been successful in balancing the need to make a moral point with the responsibility to tell a good tale. Certainly the elements for a good story are there. The narrator is an Australian journalist, intelligent and open minded. Hurting from a failed marriage and, as a result, sensitive to the pain of others, he is determined to find out why Ethiopia is a running sore of national despair and suicidal conduct. He flies into the country, as does a celebrity photographer, who is risking his career by insisting on working in Ethiopia, with which the world is bored and wants to hear as little about as possible. A beautiful, titled Englishwoman arrives at the same time, concerned with the African custom of...

(The entire section is 540 words.)