They say Rolf Boldrewood’s other novels do not compare favorably with his Robbery Under Arms, and if this book is an example I can totally agree.  The plot is almost entirely absent in this story of a struggling sheep station owner, Harold Stamford, and his flawless family.  Stamford appears in the opening pages as a man on the brink of financial collapse as a drought threatens to kill his flocks and the bank forecloses on his mortgage.  We are introduced to his wife and adult children, all of whom are unbelievably virtuous and good in the face of adversity, and we follow him to Sydney to confer with his bank.  The story turns here once Stamford is refused an extension on his loan.  First, he finds another banker willing to carry him for a few seasons, then he hears the rain has begun to fall at his station, and finally he receives a letter informing him he has inherited a fortune.  Concerned this sudden wealth will spoil his family, Stanford decides to keep it a secret, and that is all there is to this novel.

Somehow the language Boldrewood uses in this syrupy fable never rises to the level he used in Robbery Under Arms.  The dialogue is unbelievable, the description sparse, and the narrative plodding.  I borrowed this book through inter-library loan from the Cleveland, Ohio, public library, and the volume was so brittle the pages literally began to crumble as I read it.  I could tell from the circulation stamp I was the first to borrow this book since 1947, and judging from its condition and content, I am reasonably sure I will be the last.

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