A soon-to-be released novel Between by WM Glassby is mostly about love, loss and the nature of family but, according to us, Lily Ellen Publishing, who are its publisher, Between also invites a unique and contemporary perspective of Papua New Guinea (PNG) pre- and post-Independence.

The Seetos are a close-knit family who migrate to Brisbane Australia in 1975 when Papua New Guinea (PNG) commences self rule. At this moment in time, their extended family is divided between those who stay in Papua New Guinea and those who leave.

Thirty-five years later, for the Australian contingent the world begins to unravel when grandma Maria (or Ah Ma as she prefers to be called) suddenly returns to her former homeland without explanation. The family soon realise how fragile their connection to a PNG past is. When Maria dies in PNG, with no one to narrate their history, the link becomes weaker. Faint hope of resuscitation comes via a century of family memorabilia contained within an ancient chest that has been shipped from PNG to Brisbane. But it also contains evidence of secrets kept. Exposed, these can destroy the family.

This is a timely release. In September 2020, PNG will approach its forty-fifth year as a nation. It is well overdue to bring to light his understated segment of the region’s history.

PNG is Australia’s nearest neighbours, with only six kilometres from Australia’s northern-most point to PNG’s coastline, a journey regularly traversed meaning some families have members in both nations. But the bond is an historic one. Only one year after Australia became a nation, it was given responsibility for Papua. Hence, there are countless Australians who hold fond memories of their PNG experience and are hungry to read all they can about the shared history and a multitude of former PNG residents who are now Australians.

Yet there are a surprising only a few contemporary novels been published.

One is Annah Faulkner’s The Beloved (Picador 2012) about a western family living in Port Moresby. There’s Drusilla Modjeska‘s The Mountain (Penguin Random House 2013), about the influence a relationship with local brothers has upon a film maker and his Dutch wife. Also, Nicole Sinclair’s Bloodlines (Margaret River Press 2017) in which a Western Australian schoolteacher’s life is changed after teaching in PNG. These are each told from a western (expatriate) perspective.

What Glassby’s Between achieves is to give voice to members of an ethnically-blended family, part of a community who played an important role in PNG development but are under-acknowledged.

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