This is a thoughtful, insightful look at the initial contacts between Australia's indigenous people and members of the First Fleet in 1788. There is an intense curiosity, both within this book and in the snippets of evidence from the primary documents Ms Clendinnen refers to, about the meanings of the human interactions observed. Reading through the snippets from Watkin Tench, David Collins, William Bradley and others offers insights into the impacts of foreign cultures on each other.
`Our first shared Australian story is a tragedy of animated imagination, determined friendship and painfully dying hopes.'
One of the tragedies is in the way we view history. Written records, with their framework of events and theories of causation speak for themselves in ways that oral traditions, especially by those dispossessed, often cannot.
At the end of her book, Ms Clendinnen writes: `Here in this place, I think, we are all Australians now.' I am not sure that we are there yet, but there is renewed hope that we can be.
This book is well worth reading for its insights into those initial contacts.