Rob Coram is six years old when, during World War II, Japanese forces threaten his isolated corner of the world—the rural coastal farmlands of Western Australia. For the next three and a half years, he grows up constantly fretting about the safety of his cousin and hero, Rick Maplestead. After Rick’s return from the war, the friendship is reestablished, but Rick is not the carefree young man he was, and Rob’s intellectual and emotional growth are affected by his friend’s outlook.
Rob and his immediate family live in Geraldton, a town about 250 miles north of Perth, while most other members of the Coram-Maplestead clan, which is well established in the Geraldton area, live in the country on large sheep stations. Rick Maplestead is twenty years old when he ships off to war just as Rob’s family moves to the country for greater safety. Much to Rob’s distress, nothing is heard of Rick until near the war’s end, when a comrade comes home and reports seeing Rick alive, in a prison camp in Thailand.
During Rick’s absence, Rob leads a relatively normal boy’s life. Despite occasional air-raid warnings, the evacuation proves largely precautionary. Rob takes the opportunity to exercise a keen curiosity about the countryside and the lives of his landed relatives. He also gains an appreciation of his heritage. Some of his relatives are old enough to recall the pioneers who established the Corams and Maplesteads in a desolate region peopled...
(The entire section is 582 words.)