The Yield

HarperVia. Jun. 2020. 352p. ISBN 9780063003460. $26.99. F
DEBUT Three distinct narratives bind together Winch’s riveting story of Australia’s Indigenous people. From the proud patriarch Albert “Poppy” Gondiwindi and his peculiar bilingual dictionary, a haunting history of his ancestors the Wiradjuri comes alive, depicting their lore, their love of the land, their cruel defeat by white settlers, and his punishing days in the Boys’ Home after his parents were run off their land. In 1915, the Rev. Ferdinand Greenleaf writes letters to His Excellency the Governor describing white acts of horror he has witnessed but gets not replies. Instead, with Britain at war, Greenleaf is taken to an internment camp for German settlers, where his fierce commitment to the Aborigines earns him extra punishment. Gondiwindi’s granddaughter August returns for Poppy’s funeral after 10 years in England. Although her arrival brings back painful memories, it also coincides with a mining company takeover of the land. She quickly grasps the importance of her heritage and uses her grandfather’s dictionary, Greenleaf’s letters, museum records of stolen Aboriginal artifacts, and buried native bones to challenge the company.
VERDICT The Aborigines’ story is one of yielding, of not taking from the land but of bending to the will of others, a tragic picture of the Australian colonial period. Winch makes a strong statement, beautifully rendered. [See Prepub Alert, 12/2/19.]

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