In The Conversations at Curlow Creek
, two strangers spend the night talking. One, an outlaw, is to be hanged at dawn. The other is the police officer who has been sent to supervise the hanging. As the night wears on, the two men share memories and uncover unlikely connections between their lives. The story takes place in 1827 in New South Wales, Australia, which gives the novel the feel of an American western. The troopers presence in the colony is to round up outlaws, and keep an eye on the aborigine population.
I was immediately caught up in Malouf's beautiful prose, and the situations that brought these men together. But ultimately, the story centers on the background of trooper Adair, and a love triangle from his past. He has traveled to Australia in the hopes of tracking down Fergus, a childhood friend, who may now be going by the alias Dolan. Adair is head-over-heels in love with Virgilia back home in Ireland, but she has always favored Fergus.
By spending the night with doomed convict Carnery, Adair hopes to find out what has truly become of Fergus, AKA Dolan. He could then travel back home to sweet Virgilia with news that his rival is buried under three feet of dusty ground, and that he, Adair, was the best suitor all along.
When the novel journeys into Adair's privileged past, and his unrequited love that he still pines for, I started to lose interest (i.e., eyelids getting heavy.) The beautiful prose, and interesting characters got lost in the background story for me.