Who Calls From Afar?
I think I've read four Brinsmead novels now, and although they all had wildly different settings (this one takes place in the NSW country town of Moree, at the earth station there), and explore very different topics (gemstone prospecting, urban gangs, this time space communication!), there are common themes that recur in all the books. The importance of making connections between people is probably the most significant; an appreciation of the beauty of the natural world is another.
Brinsmead certainly wasn't afraid to tackle a wide range of geographic locations or social milieux. Published in 1971, Who Calls From Afar? tells of young Lyn, who finds a job as secretary at the Moree earth station, one step in the string of bases passing on satellite signals from geo-stationary orbit to headquarters in America. Lyn has felt lonely in the big city; communication, the failure to communicate, the need to communicate, is the keynote of this book. On the eve of the moon landing, a NASA bigwig becomes stranded in the outback and a road trip ensues with a cast of various characters.
I wonder what Brinsmead would have made of this moment in time, with everybody both hyper-connected and yet more atomised and individual than ever before?
For me, this is not the most successful of Hesba Brinsmead's novels -- my favourite is still the luminous Pastures of the Blue Crane, her debut. Despite the theoretically interesting subject matter, WCFA? seemed to be missing some essential emotional element that made for an ultimately unsatisfying read.