In a novel of breathtaking reach and inspired imagination, the Booker Prize-winning author of Schindler's Ark tells the stories of two men who have much in common. What separates them is 42,000 years. Shade lives with his second wife amid their clan on the shores of a bountiful lake. A peaceable man, he knows that when danger threatens, the Hero ancestors will call on him to kill, or sacrifice himself, to save his people. Over 40,000 years later, Shade's remains are unearthed near the now dry Lake Learned in New South Wales. The sensational discovery fascinates Shelby Apple, a documentary film maker who tracks the controversies it provokes about who the continent's first inhabitants were and where Shade's bones belong. Shelby goes on to follow his own heroes to the battlefields of Eritrea and the Rift Valley where Homo sapiens sprang from. When he, too, faces mortality and looks back on his passions, ideals and sorely tested marriage, Learned Man stands as an enduring spirit, a fellow player in the long, ever-evolving story of humankind.
[T]he parallels between the two [men] are engaging . . . [an] elegiac novel . . . with its joyful descriptions of Shade's family, his songs, his gods and the flame of praise he feels under the stars, and of the huge creatures - the razor-toothed great lizard, the giant kangaroo - that he and his clan hunt amongst the saltbush. -- Markie Robson-Scott * The Tablet * [Keneally] steps forth into a wild landscape of evolution, myth and primal emotion . . . a hymn to idealism, and to human development . . . As a portrait of passion, belonging, anger and forgiveness in marriage, in whatever stage of evolution, this book is deeply affecting. * Sydney Morning Herald * [An] impressive sketch of ghostly affinities between a man who makes images at once artistic and real out of the life he records and shapes, and another who conjures and kills and wills himself on the tightrope of justice and mercy in a time that Keneally is very adept at animating . . . It leaps to Africa, it resounds with the shadow-world of ancient Australia, it can evoke a background of the Inuit, of any damn thing pertinent to the purposes of a master craftsman who has no intention of taking anything lying down. * The Saturday Paper * Learned's voice is a wonderful creation: modern, compassionate and filled with moral authority . . . Both perspectives will fascinate Keneally's dedicated followers who have come to expect daring narratives dealing with themes of family, morality and moral responsibility. * Australian Bookseller * A paean to belonging, idealism and human evolution. * The i * Bristles with what makes life worth living . . . a book of wonder and regular brilliance . . . Keneally's art is to make the profound accessible. The important is rendered seamlessly . . . In a book that teems with journeys, both spiritual and physical, he finds something true, brave and powerful to say about mankind's fate. -- Hugh MacDonald * Herald (Glasgow) * Electric with life, passion and appetite . . . intensely personal, hugely inventive and often moving novel. -- Geordie Williamson * Australian * Wonderfully imaginative -- Jeffrey Burke * Mail on Sunday * Like The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, it uncovers a rich hidden seam in Australian history; like Schindler's Ark, it addresses appalling violence with impressive tact . . . passionate and heartfelt -- Robert Douglas-Fairhurst * The Times *