Picks and Pans Review: A Family Madness

updated 04/14/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/14/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Thomas Keneally

For American readers, this splendid novel opens up a new world, an Australia of many ethnic groups that have not yet melded. Some of these Aussies brought with them too heavy a burden from World War II Europe. The hero, Terry Delaney, is a pro rugby player who has to work as a security guard to pay the bills. His wife, Gina, is a lovely Italian, but that doesn't prevent him from straying in Hawaii. The firm that Delaney works for is headed by a strange Byelorussian. Sections of this novel, which alternate with the story of how Delaney falls in love with the Byelorussian's daughter, describe a family's tortured past at the hands of the Germans and Russians. This past helps explain to the reader—if not to the hero—the tale's tragic ending. Keneally, author of Schindler's List, is a commanding, ruthless writer. There is an edge to this book that is darkly comic, too, so that no matter how grim the events, the reader is held in thrall. (Simon & Schuster, $17.95)

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