'Adam's Empire' is a fictional novel written by an Australian author, Evan Green. Written back in 1986, this is a 756 page epic adventure set mainly in the Australian outback and covering a long and interesting period in Australian history between 1919 and 1936.
The main character is Adam Ross, a white man who is fairly illiterate in terms of reading and writing, but very knowledgable about survival in the drought ridden Australian plains. We are introduced to young Adam at a time of great tragedy. He is with his father in a broken down car, slowly dying from dehydration. It is touch and go whether they will make it, and unfortunately, Adam's father dies before they are discovered, leaving him an orphan. This event greatly affects his life, as his mother had died many years before, and rather than becoming educated and being around people, he is brought up by his father's friend, a man named Mr Miller (Tiger) who is an older man. He educates Adam in his business of making water bores in the dry areas, but Adam is a bit of a naive and isolated chap unaware of the ways of the world when he encounters people.
The book is divided into 5 parts covering 5 significant portions of Adam's life. Part one covers Young Adam's life, where we learn of his unfortunate early life, and we see him meet an aboriginal man by the name of Jimmy Kettle who will greatly shape Adam's life from that moment on. Apart from the colour of their skin, and the fact Jimmy is a lot more world wise, Jimmy is very similar to Adam and they work well as a great team. It is no hardship to them when circumstances force them together for them to stay together and help each other.
Part Two sees Adam as a young adult, trying to make his fortune at an Opal mine in the town of Coober Perdy. Here, he is living with a young German boy he met on the road and his family, and Jimmy and his girlfriend, Nellie. It is a very rough existence with very little water supply apart from what is brought in by an Afghanistan trader, Saleem Benn, who makes his living transporting goods amongst the outback towns by camel. The lives of all these people become eternally linked after one event that they would rather forget.
Part Three sees Adam try to start himself up in business in a town called Nyngan. He goes there to buy some equipment but ends up staying there for a while when he meets the most beautiful woman he has ever seen, the Station master's daughter, Heather Maguire. They get married, and he seems to settle down, but his heart is never far from the outback where he feels most comfortable.
Part Four takes a very adventurous turn. Adam decides he is going to invest in some land and become a cattle farmer. He journies with Josef his young German friend, and they travel to the back of beyond to inspect the land they want to buy, only to find a very unscrupulous man and a very treacherous journey indeed. While they meet men who want to hurt them, they also meet some men who are unexpected allies, and they gain a racing car out of it.
Part Five sees Adam finally in a place where he can see himself being happy. He is now the owner of a large stretch of land at the back of beyond which no-one else thinks could be a possible place to live, but with his experience of finding water he knows he can make a go of it. His only hinderance is that his wife is not really accustomed to living that way of life, and instead of being a support to him she does all she can to cause hardship.
This novel intrigued me from the start really. I thought I would find a novel of that length quite dull, but really with how it is set up in five parts, it was like reading five seperate novels. Adam as a character is certainly developed in different ways in each part of the novel.
It was very interesting for me seeing what the life was like for people in this time in Australia. Like many countries, the 1930s was a period of austerity during the Great Depression, and a lot of families were going without food and water in this harsh climate. Adam is not only responsible for himself, but his young friend Josef, and also his aboriginal friend Jimmy. They are doing ok for themselves, but when they take on Heather and her family too, this puts Adam under a lot of pressure to do well and provide for everyone.
I really warmed to the character, as it is not that often you get to follow a person through so much of their life in a fictional novel.
I found the novel very descriptive of the people, and of the harsh landscape they are living in. I got an understanding of how people viewed the aboriginal people at the time, and how Chinese workers were brought in to do work like the mining, and how white Australians felt about it all.
The times were hard, and you see the best and the worst in people as a result. I really felt for Adam who was always striving to be a good person, but was being manipulated by his wife Heather
This is quite an old novel now, and it does read to me a little like that. It is quite gentle in some places, and the romance side of it reminded me of Catherine Cookson style of novel. A gritty background of hard work and deprivation with the love story weaved between the squalor.
After reading this novel, I wouldn't mind reading the follow up novel to this one, Kalinda, also written by Evan Green.
While this is available quite cheaply second hand on amazon for a penny plus postage, it doesn't seem to be available as a new copy. My own copy was given to me by my nextdoor neighbour's daughter who was visiting from Australia. She had bought this second hand over there and was leaving it behind when she went home again as it is a weighty tome and not something you'd read lots of times.
I found this quite enjoyable. Not gripping apart from the 4th part to the book, but it certainly entertained me over a number of nights as a bit of bedtime reading.