The Pocket Bookclub does not have many rules. It is however customary for the month’s chooser of the book to bring supper. Of late these suppers have in part been inspired by the book. Some members have been quite imaginative and set a high bar. Notably, our civil war inspired supper when discussing Lincoln in the Bardo.
This month was my book choice. Terra Nullius by Claire G Coleman. I must make supper. The problem is most of the characters in the book spend most of the time very hungry. Being hungry and thirsty is the key state of being. Starving to die hungry. Foods eaten were gruel, rotten fruit, watery porridge, goanna, kangaroo and mouldy bread. No inspiration there. I went for the great fallback and cheese platter it was. You can’t go wrong with cheese. Unless you have a lactose issue.
As a person adverse to spoilers it is difficult to write about Terra Nullius. I had read there was a twist to this tale and that is what attracted me to it. Unfortunately, I looked at a photo of Claire and the caption beneath included the spoiler. Really. Be careful.
The point is that the book changes tack at its midpoint. This produced a mixed reaction in the pocket bookclub readers. While some were pleasantly surprised, others were underwhelmed, and another set felt the analogy of the book would have been better served if the ‘big reveal’ were actually a slow reveal.
Terra Nullius is about the colonisation of Australia. It is about longing for home and to belong and endurance against the odds.
“It was always a problem for him defining ‘lost’; he had a vague idea where he was but he had no real idea where he was going. East was a direction, not a destination. Jerramungup was a place but he had no idea where it was…He was not lost, he just didn’t know where he was going; he was not lost, his destination was.” p57
And on the topic of hunger (in case you did not believe me earlier!)
“Hunger – desperate, painful hunger – …There was no greater drive, no greater force in behaviour than hunger; it trumps even sex, the desire to breed, for those desires do not exist in the truly hungry. People will do almost anything if you starve them long enough. p80