A Woman of the Inner Sea

A Woman of the Inner Sea

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by Thomas Keneally

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Woman of the Inner Sea is Thomas Keneally’s strongest, most compelling work since his Booker Prize-winning Schindler’s List. Like that book, the story of Woman of the Inner Sea arises from a true incident, and once more the imagining of it is utterly convincing.
Kate Gaffney-Kozinski, an attractive, well educated woman


Woman of the Inner Sea is Thomas Keneally’s strongest, most compelling work since his Booker Prize-winning Schindler’s List. Like that book, the story of Woman of the Inner Sea arises from a true incident, and once more the imagining of it is utterly convincing.
Kate Gaffney-Kozinski, an attractive, well educated woman, has gone on “walkabout” to the inner reaches of the Australian outback. Fleeing her wealthy husband, Paul Kozinski, and his unscrupulous clan, Kate is trying to obliterate herself and the grief that haunts her. At first we do not understand its source, but as the story unfolds a kind of mystery evolves around the tragic loss of her two children. In a small town she tries to change herself into a different woman, seeking the companionship and protection of a reticent but rough local man, an explosives expert known as Jelly. But the violence of the west country’s unpredictable weather forces her on and soon she must confront her husband.
No one knows Australian society better than Thomas Keneally, who offers here a rich cross-section of his people: from Kate’s prominent father to her controversial uncle, a renegade priest; from the grasping Kozinskis who rule Sydney’s construction business to colorful small-town men like Jelly and his friend Gus, who travels with a kangaroo and emu he has rescued from an entertainment park. And at the center of this panorama stands Kate, a passionate woman of great integrity caught in a nightmare of grief and deception. Woman of the Inner Sea, with its evocation of the heroic in the midst of disaster and evil, will be remembered as one of Thomas Keneally’s best works.  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The latest effort from Booker Prize-winning Australian author Keneally (Schindler's List, The Playmaker , etc.) is one of his best. He sets it on native turf and uses glimpses of his homeland's history, folkore and natural wonders to lift intriguing events to the level of riveting, sophisticated thriller. Based on fact and infused with Keneally's colorful imagination, the story follows Kate Gaffney-Kozinski, wife of a wealthy construction empire scion and mother of two, through the disintegration of her marriage, the deaths of family members, and her ``transformation'' as a barmaid at the Railway Hotel in Myambagh, far inland from the coastal Sydney of her early life. Under the avuncular eye of the pub owner and his not-so-friendly wife, Kate settles into this bastion of ranchers, sheep shearers and barflies and takes up with softhearted pensioner Jelly (short for gelignite: dynamite). When Kate's husband's goon Burnside--a finely drawn personification of the banality of evil--shows up with divorce settlement papers, Myambagh is struck by one of the periodic floods for which it is famous. Kate suffers another loss and she must flee again into the outback--this time with Jelly's friend Gus and his pet emu and kangaroo. Keneally displays a rueful appreciation for the double-edged sword of language in his retelling of an aboriginal tale in which the animals decide to give the word beast to humans. And as he brilliantly illustrates how the best-laid plans can go awry, he demonstrates that the true test of people is in how they cope with life's major and minor catastrophes. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Despite her hyphenated last name, sturdy Kate Gaffney-Kozinski is not altogether a modern woman; she's abandoned work for the joys of raising her two children in a lovely home on the Australian coast. When tragedy strikes, taking the lives of both children when Kate is not at home, her adulterous husband brutally blames her for their deaths. Kate flees to the outback, working as a barmaid, then flees again when a cataclysmic flood and her husband's henchman hit town simultaneously. This time, Kate is accompanying Gus, who has a full-grown kangaroo and emu in tow; it's not so much gentle Gus but something about his peaceful, long-suffering kangaroo that reawakens her to life. Keneally's tale is rich in detail and characterization, but the writing can be maddeningly elliptical. It takes forever to discover the tragedy of Kate's life, and the result is a curious sense of restlessness throughout half the novel. Still, Keneally is an important writer to include in literary collections. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/92.-- Barbara Hoffert, ``Library Journal''
Brad Hooper
From depicting one terribly frightening aspect of life in today's global community--terrorism--in "Flying Hero Class" , this widely regarded Australian novelist now turns more inward but universal. Keneally returns to his native land to follow one woman's emotional and physical journey from unhappiness to despair to "repair". In the Australian state of New South Wales, Kate Gaffney-Kozinski, in her early thirties, has a marriage that's unworkable, despite all outward appearances of its success. Not ordinarily the kind of person who would do so, Kate nonetheless is pushed to the limit and flees--to the outback, where she hides her identity yet, tested again, comes into her own as a person. Kate's woes and her victories are, in general terms, everybody's--and everybody will follow her story through to the end.
Kirkus Reviews
Kate Gaffney-Kozinski is a rich young exurban Sydney matron, born well and married well into a Polish-Australian construction dynasty. She lives with her children, a boy and girl, in a beachfront house of magnificence, where she's too rarely joined by husband Paul, busy with his various political/financial schemes and a new mistress. When Kate cannot abide it any longer, she seeks comfort from her father over dinner; and while she's away with him at a restaurant, her house burns, killing the children and the babysitter. Kate retreats in instinctive horror, driving herself like a spike to be buried into the outback, coming to rest finally in the unpromising desert (but often flood-ridden) town of Myambagh. "In training for being beneath notice," she becomes a barmaid, the associate of three kind, rough men: Jack, the taverner; Jelly, a local man renowned for saving the town once before with dynamite that blew a hole to let the floodwaters escape; and Gus, a farmer whose mission has been to rescue a pet kangaroo and pet emu from a theme park he'd in a lapsed moment sold them to. While Kate's in Myambagh, there's another flood—a dramatic affair that destroys much, but out of which Kate emerges with her soul half-restored (partly thanks, in the most poetic and stirring side-melody here, to Chifley, the pet kangaroo). Kate eventually returns to Sydney, to discover a horrifying truth about the fire that killed her children; and, in a long tragic spasm of fatality, to do something about it. One of Keneally's best—on a par with Confederates (1980) and Schindler's List (1982)—a book so psychically expansive yet visually potent that you read thinking what a great film it wouldmake, then at some point change your mind and think opera instead. The book is charged with indelible characterizations, and Keneally's prose is compact, stinging, and near-perfect, moving you back and forward into action majestically. An unforgettable novel by one of the finest moral imaginations in literature.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Random House
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2 MB

Meet the Author

Thomas Keneally has won international acclaim for his novels Schindler's Ark, Confederates, Gossip from the Forest, Playmaker, Woman of the Inner Sea, and A River Town. He is most recently the author of the biography American Scoundrel: The Life of the Notorious Civil War General Dan Sickles.

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Woman of the Inner Sea 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There is misery in Kate's life. Enough to drive her away from family and friends and forsake the life she has lived in Sydney, Australia for a small country town. Kate is taking time to recover from a catastrophe but she meets new people, people who take her as she is and give her the chance to start a new life. Then the old life starts to catch up and she must run again. This is a a thrilling novel from the Booker Prize winning author of Schindler's Ark. Once again Thomas Kenealy brings rural Australia to life