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David Foster: The Glade Within the Grove

Despite not being published in the United States, this book was massively hyped both inside and outside Australia. According to the blurb on my copy, E. Annie Proulx called it an important and stunningly original novel and The Times Literary Supplement said the work of the novel is done so well that there can be no achievement beyond it. Frankly, I disagree. I read it in a hotel room in Vienna, Austria, just after having read Geoff Nicholson‘s Bleeding London and, frankly, I much preferred Bleeding London. (Interesting aside: I have noticed that my view of a novel is often coloured by what I have read just before or what I read just after. I often make connections between apparently unrelated novels or find common threads that are both coincidental and which have undoubtedly not be seen by others, least of all by the authors themselves.)

Glade, apparently, is linked to The Ballad of Erinungarah. The Ballad was written by Orion and is discovered at the bottom of an old mailbag by D’Arcy D’Oliveres. D’Oliveres writes Glade in response to this discovery and says it is a supplement to the Ballad. The Ballad is then lost and only rediscovered years later. Do you care? No, nor do I. I have not read the Ballad and have no plans to do so. Glade, which we are here discussing, is written by the weird, eccentric postman D’Arcy D’Oliveres and part of its charm is, apparently, D’Oliveres’ quirkiness. Give me Illywhacker any day. The Ballad and, therefore, Glade is about a commune in the 60s. It is hidden in a valley, found by 60s rock guitarist Michael Ginnsy. A couple of old hippies show him the way and, when he returns to Sydney, and tells others about it, he is persuaded to lead a group of 60s characters (drug-dealer, hippies, poor little rich kids, Marxists… you get the picture) to the valley. The whole novel of course, becomes a discussion about 60s values and what we might calls 90s values – environmental issues, dropping-out, etc. This is all fascinating and interesting but, as a novel, it just does not seem, at least to me, to gel. Foster makes excellent use of myth (but mainly European rather than Australian ones) and, for those that yearn (or, more likely yearned) to drop out, this may be an enjoyable novel but, to me, it was disappointing.

Publishing history

First published 1996 by Vintage