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The Black Opal   By: (1883-1969)

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Katharine Susannah Prichard's novel, The Black Opal, takes readers on an enthralling journey through the untamed and rugged landscapes of Western Australia. Set in the early 20th century, the story revolves around the lives of a group of individuals, each with their own dreams and struggles, who are inexorably drawn together by the allure of the black opal.

Prichard's masterful storytelling transports us to a bygone era, where we witness the harsh realities of life for those living in the remote mining town of Spinifex. Through her vivid descriptions, the author paints a vivid picture of the unforgiving outback, with its scorching heat, vast red deserts, and the ceaseless pursuit of fortunes hidden beneath the earth's surface.

The characters in The Black Opal are both captivating and complex. The protagonist, Eunice Haywood, is a strong-willed and fiercely independent woman, determined to break free from the shackles of societal expectations. Her relentless pursuit of the elusive black opal mirrors her unyielding desire for personal freedom and self-discovery. Alongside Eunice, we encounter a diverse cast of individuals, each with their own inner demons and aspirations. Prichard masterfully weaves their stories together, capturing the essence of human struggle, resilience, and the pursuit of happiness.

One of the most remarkable aspects of Prichard's writing is her ability to capture the essence of the Australian landscape. The vastness of the outback and its raw, unforgiving beauty become as much a character in the story as the people themselves. Her depictions of the bustling mining town, the oppressive heat, and the arduous labor of mining for opals are palpable, transporting readers to another time and place.

The Black Opal is not simply a tale of adventure and discovery, but also a contemplation of larger themes such as social inequality, gender roles, and the damaging effects of colonialism. Prichard delves into the harsh realities faced by the indigenous population, shedding light on their struggles and the disregard with which they were treated. Through her writing, she reminds us of the historical injustices perpetrated against Australia's First Nations people, forcing readers to confront uncomfortable truths and stimulating discussions on the impact of colonization.

While The Black Opal is undeniably a captivating read, it does have its flaws. At times, the pacing feels a bit uneven, with certain sections dragging on while others speed by too quickly. Additionally, some characters lack the depth and development that others possess, leaving us hungry for more insight into their motivations and inner conflicts.

Overall, The Black Opal is a captivating and thought-provoking novel that skillfully blends adventure, drama, and social commentary. Prichard's evocative descriptions transport readers to the heart of the Australian outback, while her vivid characters and their intertwining narratives create an engaging and immersive reading experience. This novel is a testament to the rich literary heritage of Australian literature and an exploration of the enduring themes and struggles that resonate with readers even today.

First Page:

E text prepared by Amy Sisson & Marc D'Hooghe (http://www.freeliterature.org)

THE BLACK OPAL

by

KATHARINE SUSANNAH PRICHARD

Author of "The Pioneers," "Windlestraws," Etc.

London: William Heinemann 1921

PART I

CHAPTER I

A string of vehicles moved slowly out of the New Town, taking the road over the long, low slope of the Ridge to the plains.

Nothing was moving on the wide stretch of the plains or under the fine, clear blue sky of early spring, except this train of shabby, dust covered vehicles. The road, no more than a track of wheels on shingly earth, wound lazily through paper daisies growing in drifts beside it, and throwing a white coverlet to the dim, circling horizon. The faint, dry fragrance of paper daisies was in the air; a native cuckoo calling.

The little girl sitting beside Michael Brady in Newton's buggy glanced behind her now and then. Michael was driving the old black horse from the coach stables and Newton's bay mare, and Sophie and her father were sitting beside him on the front seat. In the open back of the buggy behind them lay a long box with wreaths and bunches of paper daisies and budda blossoms over it.

Sophie knew all the people on the road, and to whom the horses and buggies they had borrowed belonged. Jun Johnson and Charley Heathfield were riding together in the Afghan storekeeper's sulky with his fat white pony before them... Continue reading book >>




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