Lost Voices by Christopher Koch
Lost Voices is Christopher Koch’s last novel. Setting the scene in Glenorchy, Tasmania and the nearby bushlands, he uses the most exquisite language to paint a vivid picture of suburban Hobart in the 1940s & 50s and the rugged bushranger country that was in its place one hundred years previously.
It tells two separate but similar stories of idealistic young men, their relationships with their respective mentor figures, and ultimately their transition into awareness of the darker side of humanity. In each case, they witness something to aspire to in their mentors as they each refuse to allow evil to prevail. The interesting aspect is that these two narratives take place 100 years apart from one another, and one of these heroic mentors is a bushranger, a wanted criminal.
I loved Lost Voices. I have to say that it’s more literary than most things I’ve been reading lately and I probably missed some vital messages or themes in this book. There is some interesting exploration of utopian societies and their intrinsic incompatibility with the nature of human interaction, and the dual narratives were engaging…oh and I found the villains sooooo infuriatingly villainous that it was quite satisfying hating them.
Really though, if some of the finer points passed me by, I think that just means there is more left for me to enjoy next time I read it. Even if you think you don’t “get” these kinds of books, it doesn’t matter. The poetry of Koch’s language is so beautiful that even if you only enjoy it on that level, it’s a rich gift indeed.