As the River Runs by Stephen Scourfield

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16292537If you are not already a little bit in love with the landscape and people of the Kimberley region of north-west Australia,chances are you will be after reading Stephen Sourfield’s As the River Runs.

Scourfield is travel editor of The West Australia newspaper and has visited the Kimberley region over 100 times. Needless to say, he knows what he is talking about and is a master at painting imagery. It won’t be long until you find yourself immersed in the setting, sweating in the dense Kimberley heat, in awe of the ancient land and with just a little bit of red dirt under your skin.

The novel is a sequel to Scourfield’s Other Country released in 2007 but I haven’t read this yet and feel it is not necessary to understand and enjoy the plot. Saying that, it has now also been added to my ‘to be read’ pile!

As the River Runs addresses topics that are highly relevant to Australia and other countries around the world where water is scarce, to the point that wars are raged over it. As one of the driest places on the planet, Australia suffers water shortages and this is highlighted in the city where hot and dry summers equal water restrictions and pressure on the government to come up with a solution.

The dream of politician Michael Mooney is to pipe water from the Kimberley – a mere 2,500 km north of the city – where it is “wasted” as it flows out to sea. To gauge the feasibility of the project and potential opposition, what follows is a road trip through the Kimberley by a group of interesting characters: an environmentalist-cum-consultant Dylan Ward, Mooney’s chief-of-staff Kate Kennedy and fixer but nasty case Jack Cole. Each view the land through entirely different lenses and Scourfield captures this wonderfully. (I did ask the author when I met him recently why he didn’t kill off Cole in the harsh outback. Read the book and you will understand my reasoning!)

As the team makes its way across the north, the road-trippers meet up with the locals and it is here that we are introduced to some of the big hearts and larger-than-life characters that exist in the outback. Scourfield’s interpretation of the importance of place and story for Indigenous Australians is told with care and grace.

This is a wonderful story and highly recommended.

My rating: ★★★★

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