The Bell of the WorldGregory Day
When a troubled Sarah Hutchinson returns to Australia from boarding school in England and time spent in Europe, she is sent to live with her eccentric Uncle Ferny on the family property, Ngangahook. With the sound of the ocean surrounding everything they do on the farm, Sarah and her uncle form an inspired bond hosting visiting field naturalists and holding soirees in which Sarah performs on a piano whose sound she has altered with items and objects from the bush and shore.
As Sarah's world is nourished by music and poetry, Ferny's life is marked by Such is Life, a book he has read and reread, so much so that the volume is falling apart. Its saviour is Jones the Bookbinder of Moolap, who performs a miraculous act. To shock and surprise, Jones interleaves Ferny's volume with a book he bought from an American sailor, a once obscure tale of whales and the sea. In art as in life nature seems supreme. Ngangahook and its environs are threatened, however, when members of the community ask the Hutchinsons to help 'make a savage landscape sacred' by financing the installation of a town bell. The fearless musician and her idealistic uncle refuse to buckle to local pressures, mounting their own defence of 'the bell of the world'.
Gregory Day's new novel embodies a cultural reckoning in a breathtakingly beautiful and lyrical way. The Bell of the World is both a song to the natural wonders that are not yet gone and a luminous prehistory of contemporary climate change and its connection to colonialism. It is a book immersed in the early to mid-twentieth century but written very much for the hearts of the future.