With sparing use of words Patrick Holland has portrayed the final months of the last two bushrangers in Australia, the Kenniff brothers, Patrick and James and the policeman, Nixon, responsible for their capture.
The words are poignant in that they raise the issue over and over again of the pointlessness, the hopelessness of a cause no longer a cause but a way of life. In the beginning there was a point to be made, almost a protest, about the hardship of trying to survive in a harsh and demanding country when many things, the Government and the climate being just two, were against them.
The Kenniff family were just one of the many early settlers trying to make a go of it by raising horses for sale. Rustling was a part of the game and if you were caught the consequences were dreadful for the families.
James and Patrick Kenniff were caught, harsh penalties applied to the family with the brothers then becoming ‘outside of the law’, refusing to change their ways. They became symbols of the strugglers on the land, the people supported their cause and the law had an almost impossible job trying to capture them.
When a policeman, Doyle and station manager Dalhlke, with black tracker Sam Johnson set out to try and discover where the brothers were with yet another mob of stolen horses they disappear, bringing Sergeant Nixon into the situation.
Nixon, along with the Skillington boy set off to track James and Patrick. Over many months travel in the wide, dry, desolate country, sometimes they got close and at other times far, far away.
The description of the life the settlers lead is remarkable, poignant and brings into sharp focus the hardship that was to be found wherever Nixon and his men travelled.
As the story unfolds we are able to understand the drive of James, Patrick and the other men who have joined up with the brothers to form a formidable enemy. The drive of Nixon, Skillington and their tracker King Edward to make a capture becomes more apparent, even though both Nixon and James Kenniff, in the dark of the night, wonder how it all started and where it is all going to end.
Both men are similar in their desire to never give in, never give up and ironically both fall in love with the same woman from a rum shanty, a young mission reared, half cast Chinese girl who can both read and write.
Insightful and introspective of the human psyche, this a story based in Australian history which portrays a time in Australia where men and times were hard, but there was still a softness to be found in the most unlikely places, a common cause for which to fight, and a law that was becoming stronger as the fledgling country moved towards Federation.
Intricate, involved, insightful, portraying a harsh beauty, One is a novel that will remain with you long after the final page is read.