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25 October 2012 Books


Robert Drewe

Touted as a sequel to Drewe’s acclaimed memoir The Shark Net, Montebello stands on its own two feet – you certainly don’t need any knowledge of the earlier book to enjoy this one. At its core is a series of little-known nuclear tests conducted by the British off the Western Australian coast in the 1950s, when Drewe was a schoolboy in Perth. Memories of the tests have stayed with him throughout his life, and in the 21st century he visited the islands as a guest of a team of scientists trying to re-establish native fauna populations. Interspersed with this are reflections on childhood and adulthood, and life as a reporter and a writer of fiction, romance, marriage and separation. Drewe doesn’t just rely on his own memories and experience, though – there’s plenty of history in here that most Australians will be completely unfamiliar with. His scattergun approach to the material gets out of hand occasionally, and the constant jumping forwards, backwards and sometimes even sideways gets a little confusing. Nevertheless, this is an entertaining, enlightening and occasionally moving read.