A Treacherous Country cover

Shortlist year: 2021

Shortlist category: Fiction

Published by: Allen & Unwin

Gabriel Fox, the young son of an old English house, arrives in a land both ancient and new.

Drawn by the promise of his heart's desire, and compelled to distance himself from pain at home, Gabriel begins his quest into Van Diemen's Land.

His guide, a cannibal who is not all he seems, leads him north where Gabriel might free himself of his distracting burden and seek the woman he must find. As Gabriel traverses this wild country, he uncovers new truths buried within his own memory.

Authentic, original and playful, 'A Treacherous Country' is a novel of loyalty, wisdom and the freedom to act.

About the author

K.M. Kruimink

Gabriel Fox

K.M. Kruimink was born in Tasmania and spent most of her childhood in the Huon Valley, with an interlude on the West Coast. After completing an Arts degree at the University of Tasmania, she lived and worked interstate and abroad for several years. Today, she lives once again in the Huon Valley, now with her husband and daughter. 'A Treacherous Country' is her first novel.

Judges’ comments

The spirit of 'Don Quixote' presides over this off-beat story set in nineteenth-century Australia. Gabriel Fox, the novel's well-intentioned but hopelessly naïve narrator-protagonist, travels from England to Van Diemen's Land to fulfil a commission for the formidable Mrs Prendergast. If successful, he hopes to win the hand of his beloved Susannah, Mrs Prendergast's ward. In a journey dogged by error and disappointment, Gabriel seems to be drifting further and further from his goal. In fact, his haphazard peregrinations lead him to exactly the discoveries he needs to make and confer fresh insights into the world of repressive privilege from which he comes. Gabriel's wide-eyed innocence and idiosyncratic use of language are estranging devices that comically subvert his authority as the narrator. Seen through his eyes and described by his voice, early nineteenth-century Tasmania becomes a profoundly disorienting place—terrifying, magical, nonsensical, absurd. Yet beneath the surreal surface of Gabriel's story runs a thread of kindness, civility and, eventually, wisdom. Working at the intersection between the genres of comedy, folk tale and historical fiction, Kruimink has crafted a novel that is at once highly original and deeply humane.