An intriguing tale of how a certain church was built in rural Australia by the curious manipulations of fate in the lives of Oscar Hopkins and Lucinda Leplastrier. Oscar is a church man. Lucinda is a rich young woman dabbling in the glass factory business. The two meet because of their obsessive love for gambling. Gambling entwines their fates. Gambling makes them fall in love. Gambling leads to the denouement of the plot in the creation and locomotion of the church of glass. The tale is full of incidents with unpredictable quirky ends which create a complex plot. The biggest such twist comes at the end of the novel when Oscar and Lucinda both experience their tragic fallout. As a reader I found this sudden twist at the end to be most delightful.
The book is set in Australia in the 1800s. Much of Australia was inhabited by aboriginals and was underdeveloped at that time. The Christian Church was sending its emissaries to these rural parts of Australia while trying to civilise it. The book bears reference to this aspect of history. We get glimpses of social customs and prejudices belonging to this time in Australia. Gender bias is a predominant theme. We see how Lucinda, a single young heiress tries to hold her ground in a society unused to authority from women.
The book is written in the third person narrative, by an omniscient author who can get into the minds of all characters in the novel and narrate events from their individual perspectives. The book reads like an epic with numerous small incidents and characters who don’t always contribute significantly to the plot. For example, why did Oscar’s best friend, Wardley-Fish unsuccessfully try to follow Oscar’s journey to Boat Harbour? Why he was even made to come to Australia in pursuit of Oscar? Why do we need to know the life history of Fanny Drabble, Theophilus Hopkins’ servant? I don’t think such detours contribute significantly to the story.
If the author meant this to be a love story, I don’t think he has been successful in creating one. Yes, Oscar and Lucinda do fall in love and Oscar dies because of it. But romance is hardly the theme of the novel. The two fall in love well beyond the second half of the book. They meet when half the book is over. And the plot hardly concentrates on the emotional development of their romance. The two seem more like loners who get together simply because they are unable to find anyone else. Lucinda is spurned by her first and only other love interest, Dennis Hasset. Oscar does not seem capable of any predominant emotional affiliation in the haze of his fears and complexes. One wonders, can someone as weak as Oscar experience something as elevating as Love?
Book Reviewed By Ashmita Saha
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