Posted by: Lisa Hill | December 6, 2009

Opening Lines: Bring Larks and Heroes by Thomas Keneally (1967)

Thomas Keneally is one of Australia’s most prolific writers.  Born in 1935, he has written 31 novels, 15 non-fiction books, and some plays and he’s won the Miles Franklin twice, for Bring Larks and Heroes in 1967 and Three Cheers for the Paraclete in 1968.  His most recent novel, The Widow and her Hero (2008) was long-listed for the MF and shortlisted for the PM’s Literary Award, and it was a riveting story.  That’s the thing about Keneally – he’s a gifted storyteller.

So wouldn’t you think that Penguin would commission a decent book-cover for his books?  I don’t have the 1967 Cassell first edition yet, but you can see from the image on the right (from Perry Middlemiss’s Australian Book-covers collection) that it’s the right kind of artwork for a book about an unnamed British penal colony.  There’s a ship, and there’s some people in period costume and it looks suitably moody.  My Penguin on the other hand is by an artist called Maria Parrott, and it’s very unappealing.  That bloke with a mullet and his girlfriend with the shaggy hair make it look like a contemporary YA romance!

Anyway, here are the opening lines:

At the world’s end, it is Sunday afternoon in February. Through the edge of the forest a soldier moves without any idea he’s caught in a mesh of sunlight and shade. Corporal Halloran’s this fellow’s name. He’s a lean boy taking long strides through the Sabbath heat. Visibly, he has the illusion of knowing where he’s going. Let us say, without conceit, that is any of his ideas on this subject were not illusion, there would be no story.

He is not exactly a parade-ground soldier today. His hair isn’t slicked into a queue, because the garrison he serves in has no pomade left, and some idle subaltern is trying to convert the goo into candles. Halloran’s in his shirt, his forage jacket over his left arm. He wears gaiters over canvas shoes. Anyone who knew firearms would take great interest in the musket he’s got in his right hand. It’s a rare model that usually hangs in the company commander’s office.  (p1)

Author: Thomas Keneally
Title: Bring Larks and Heroes
Publisher: Penguin,1988 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780140109290
Source: Personal copy.  $4.50, from the Op Shop!


  1. She’s the Lark! He’s the Hero! Together they’re – Larks and Heroes! They fight crime! Bring it!

    And my 1974 A&R Classics edition of Letty Fox: Her Luck comes with a cover picture of a woman sitting on a man’s lap, pulling back and looking upward as if her next career move will be to star in a remake of William Holman Hunt’s The Awakening Conscience. ( ) I can’t find an illustrator credited anywhere. I’m wondering if they just went to a big file of random drawings marked, “All-Purpose: Women: Romantic Situations” and threw a dart at it.


  2. It’s a pity, I think. I’d rather they did a plain cover (like the orange and white popular penguins) than use shabby pseudo art.


  3. I know I’ve read Thomas Kenneally. but can’t remember the name of the book. Wasn’t there a famous movie based on one of his books?


  4. Was it Schindler’s List?


  5. Yes, that is the movie, Schindler’s List. The novel that I read by Thomas Kenneally I think was “The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith”. I probably didn’t read “Schindler’s Ark” because it didn’t sound like fiction to me, and besides I had seen the excellent movie.


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