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Bright and Distant Shores

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Bright and Distant Shores

Dominic Smith

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Shortlisted for The Age Book of the Year and The Vance Palmer Prize

They were showing the savages on the rooftop—that was the word at the kerbstone.

Set amid the skyscrapers of 1890s Chicago and the far-flung islands of the South Pacific, Bright and Distant Shores is both a sweeping epic and a triumph of lyrical storytelling. Chicago First Equitable has won the race to construct the world’s tallest building and its president, Hale Gray, hits upon a surefire way to make it an enduring landmark: to establish on the roof an exhibition of real-life ‘savages’. He sponsors a South Seas voyage to collect not only weaponry and artefacts, but also ‘several natives related by blood’ for the company’s rooftop spectacle. Caught up in this scheme are two orphans: Owen Graves, the voyage’s head trader from Chicago’s South Side, and Argus Niu, a mission houseboy in Melanesia—two young men haunted by their pasts.

With echoes of Melville, Doctorow and Carey, Bright and Distant Shores is at once a remarkable love story and a breathtaking adventure that chronicles the clash of the tribal and the civilised at a pivotal moment in history. An extraordinary feat of imagination and storytelling, it will wholly seduce you.

’Hugely entertaining . . . One of the most striking new Australian novels I’ve read in some time, a work suffused by a generous and often joyous humanity, and unafraid to take narrative risks.’ James Bradley, The Australian

’An atmospheric, meticulously observed period drama from a footsure and stylish writer with a fine sense of narrative pace.’ The Age

’Vivid characterization and a breathless narrative pace create a riveting tale of fragile indigenous communities in pristine places vanishing before the febrile raptor-breath of capitalism . . . evocations of Chicago surprise and delight.’ Australian Financial Review

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