Books & Literature

Book Review: Ghosts of the Past, by Tony Park

In 1906, young Australian adventurer is condemned to death while in present day, his decendant begins a journey of discovery by delving into the past.

Another standout novel of Tony Park’s that will keep you captivated to the very end.

Is it any wonder that Tony Park is one of the biggest selling authors in Australia? His seventeenth novel and latest book, Ghosts of the Past,will keep you captivated to the very end.

It starts with the callous shooting of Cyril Blake in 1906 and flits back and forth from past to present throughout, interweaving two equally interesting narratives.

The first narrative is based on a true story and is set in the Anglo-Boer war, and this is the story of Cyril Blake and his love interest, Irish German spy Claire Martin. The second narrative is set in the present: fellow reporter Susan Vidler tracks down journalist Nick Eatwell, the great-great nephew of Cyril and, sets him on a path he never envisioned.

It is a path that leads recently widowed Nick Eatwell to search into his family’s past and by doing so, he is fortunate enough to locate a memoir of Cyril Blake’s life in South West Africa (Namibia). The valuable memoir describes Cyril’s role in the Anglo-Boer war and allows for such depth of character to be presented by intimately capturing the complexities of the mindsets involved in war. It explains the how and why of Cyril’s wartime actions.  

In contrast is Nick, recently widowed and jobless, who follows the ghosts of his past. His spur-of-the-moment decision to follow the historical trail to Africa reflects where he is in his life. Whilst there he meets Anja and together, they find themselves fighting their own modern-day battle.

The depth of all characters is built in stages. The dual narratives expose the shortcomings and vulnerabilities of human nature, as well as the courage and fortitude of people in both eras, composed in such a captivating way. With Africa being a place full of such natural dangers and beauty, it forms the perfect adjunct to the circumstances.

It is clear that Tony Park loves the wildlife, landscapes and culture of Africa. His extensive knowledge comes partly from personal experience – he and his wife have a home in both Sydney and Southern Africa, the latter being near to Kruger National Park. Park was also a major in the Australian Army Reserve and the complexities of serving time in war is very close to his heart, perhaps one of the reasons why he chose to research the death of Edward Lionel Presgrave (who features as Cyril Blake in the novel).

Reviewed by Rebecca Wu

Distributed by: Pan Macmillan Australia
Released: July 2019
RRP: $32.99 paperback, $14.99 eBook, $45 audiobook

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