Homesickness: A Novel

Murray Bail

Farrar, Straus & Giroux 1980
A book review by Danny Yee © 2004
Thirteen Australians travel the world, visiting Africa, Britain, Ecuador, the United States, and Russia. Their reactions and interactions and backgrounds make them not atypical a tour group, but the places they visit are strangely twisted, surreally commenting on their own position and status, both as tourists and as Australians.

Particular inventiveness is displayed with museums. In Africa, a Museum of Native Handicrafts and a Museum of Pygmies have exhibits on the colonisers rather than the colonised. In London a Museum of Corrugated Iron and a visit to a genealogist reflect on Australian self-perception and national identity. In New York a visit to the Institution of Marriage brings to a head some of the romantic entanglements within the group, after which a wild animal safari in Central Park changes the mood entirely. And in Moscow visits to an Institute of Gravity and Lenin's mausoleum reflect on the grotesqueries of Soviet Russia.

Bail gives his absurd and outrageous conceits form with sharp, vivid details; and his humour, though pervasive, is biting and often dark. It's a little difficult initially, but Bail manages the large cast of characters admirably, making all thirteen tour group members distinctive. Homesickness has almost no overall plot — various plot elements never go anywhere — but its individual episodes have more than enough drive. The result is an intellectual novel, but a clever, sparkling one.

March 2004

External links:
- buy from or
- review and links at the Complete Review
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- Murray Bail - Eucalyptus
- Murray Bail - The Pages
- more Australian + New Zealand literature
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- books published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux
%T Homesickness
%S A Novel
%A Bail, Murray
%I Farrar, Straus & Giroux
%D 1980
%O paperback
%G ISBN 0374172471
%P 421pp