Salt Creek, by Lucy Treloar is a really great book. It’s set in South Australia in the 1860s and centres on the misfortunes of the Finches, an English family trying to make their living from the inhospitable land around Salt Creek. At its core Salt Creek is a story about colonial Australia’s place in the Empire, of white people’s uneasy foothold in Australia and the displacement of native Australians through farming, disease and misdirected religious fervour.
The writing is beautiful, evoking the period and the landscape. The plot begins slowly and we’re gradually drawn into each of the characters’ individual sense of alienation. The story increasingly gathers pace as Papa Finch’s fortunes fall further into decline and the family disintegrates.
Salt Creek is about love, racism, colonial pioneering, ego, familial tension and bitter disappointment. These big themes are teased out beautifully over the course of the novel. For this reason, I think Salt Creek is destined to be a film. I’ve pondered over who could play the central characters thoughtfully enough to do proper justice to this book, and I’ve come up with the following list: