The Conversations at Curlow Creek Summary

David Malouf

The Conversations at Curlow Creek

David Malouf, an award-winning Australian author, has written many compelling novels including HARLAND’S HALF ACRE (1984), THE GREAT WORLD (1990), and REMEMBERING BABYLON (1993). As in REMEMBERING BABYLON, THE CONVERSATIONS AT CURLOW CREEK is set in the rough-and-tumble times of nineteenth century Australia. Malouf is adept at describing the strange and vital milieu of an Australia struggling with its identity. In the Australian outback, a band of outlaws has been inciting the indigenous natives to rebel against British rule. British troops are sent to quell the insurgency. Under the leadership of Michael Adair, the troops attack the outlaws and all but one of the renegades is killed. The lone survivor, Daniel Carney, and Adair strike up a conversation during the night before Carney is to be hanged. During their extended conversations, the men reveal to each other more than either one of them could have believed would ever have been possible.

Having both emigrated from Ireland years ago, Adair reminisces about growing up as an adopted orphan and his close childhood friendship with his adoptive family’s natural son Fergus. Adair believes that it is possible for Fergus to have been the leader of the outlaws, Jack Dolan. The prisoner becomes the only person who can shed light on Dolan. In a number of flashbacks, the relationship between Adair and Fergus is fleshed out. A young woman, Virgilia, was loved by Adair, but she was attracted to Fergus. Through the night’s conversations, issues of loyalty, justice, social inequality, and closure are confronted. Malouf has written a multilayered novel that is inhabited by complex characters and vivid descriptions of Australia and Ireland.