In his third week with Elizabeth he began to see her with another man.
It was always in the distance, on hard ground where the footprints wouldn’t show. He saw her down where the track met the road, talking to a fellow with a black waistcoat and a white collarless shirt. She was collecting the mail; she had an envelope in her hand. The man wasn’t a neighbour or someone from the town.
The following day he heard her voice in the barn. Then a low reply. He froze, too stricken to investigate. He felt sick, swaying with a deep unsteadiness.
Then he saw her with two boys near the creek, where he’d lit his first campfire on her land. Slim boys, taller than Elizabeth.
She was hiring more workmen. That was all. She’d tell him about it soon. He was a hard worker and she was sparing his feelings, but she did need a few more men.
Elizabeth used to set out a dish of milk on the verandah when she thought there were snakes about. Snakes are attracted to milk. She sprinkled flower around the dish and in the morning, count the snake trails in the flour. Just to check. She could live with one or two snakes. No more than one or two.
Joe dreamed that he made her stand all day in a pool of flour. In the evening he checked the place where she stood, bringing his single candle low to the white floor. There were footprints all around her, the impressions of a child’s feet, a dancing master in leather soles, workmen’s boots, just like his own.
He knew then that the men he’d seen with Elizabeth did not exist. He had some disorder of the mind.
A farm on the banks of the Blackwood River in 1921 is the site of a strange honeymoon for Elizabeth Zettler, whose husband lies dead on a Turkish hillside after the failure of the Dardanelles campaign, and Joe Tully, a veteran of the same campaign who finds unexpected sanctuary on Elizabeth’s farm. All honeymoons come to an end, but their love brings them a gift and a brief kind of grandeur in the long aftermath of a foreign war.
The Wing of Night is a novel about the strength and failure of faith and memory, about returned soldiers who become exiles in their own country, and about people who have become the very opposite of what they imagined themselves to be.
2007 The Asher Literary Award
2006 Nita B. Kibble Award
Shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award