Our Tradition Of Mateship
THE CLIMATE OF COURAGE, by Jon Cleary. Collins, London.
JON CLEARY has an im- pressive natural talent as a novelist. His interests are such universal subjects as love, desire, hatred, friendship, suf- fering and happiness; his por- traits are vivid; his writing is direct and vigorous; and his people are observed with a warm sympathy.
But some conflict between ro- mantic and sentimental tenden- cies on one side and realism on the other is evident in this novel. Mr. Cleary should undoubtedly resolve that conflict in favour of realism, which he handles very effectively.
This novel falls naturally into two parts. It tells of the experien- ces of a few Middle East vete- rans, first during a short leave in Sydney and then while they are on active service in New Guinea.
We are shown Lieutenant Vern Radcliffe, happy with his wife and two children, but not
sure whether he is good enough to be responsible for the lives of other men; Sergeant Greg Morley, V.C., whose marriage is breaking up; Sergeant Jack Savanna, who is trying to shake off the memories of trouble be- tween his parents; and several other men in the unit.
IN the first part of the novel the
atmosphere of wartime Syd- ney is conveyed well and the soldiers are neatly drawn, but their domestic affairs are made less convincing by a romantic approach that shows itself in sen- timental situations and smart, artificial talk.
Once the men are together again in New Guinea, Mr. Cleary's best qualities take charge. In the course of describ- ing the dangers and hardships of a tragic trek through the jungle, he lets the excitement mount steadily and handles with understanding such moving in- cidents as the shooting of the hated Major by Radcliffe and the farewell between Joe and Mick.
He is thoroughly at home with
these Australian soldiers, with their sardonic humour, their matcship, their avoidance of heroics, their salty and often crude talk.
At the end, some of these men have struggled back to safety, with their outlooks changed slightly and a problem or two
This part of the novel (and an earlier section about the men in camp) is written simply and vitally in that excellent Aus- tralian tradition of masculinity,
mateship and acceptance of life.