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Fiction

September 29, 1985|JUDITH FREEMAN

SILVER CITY by Sara Dowse (Penguin: $3.95). "Silver City," a small and sparsely written novel based on a screenplay by Sophia Turkiewicz and Thomas Keneally of a film in current release, opens in a transit camp for Polish refugees located in the bleak Australian countryside during the years following World War II. In metal barracks, whence Silver City takes its name, men are separated from women, husbands from wives, as the refugees await job assignments that will send them to farms and factories to begin new lives in a land that seems raw, crude, "not started, not finished." For the five main characters, dreams provide a reprieve from memories of war, other camps, lost homelands and relatives. Julian wishes to finish law school, his wife, Anna, wants a house, Helena seeks a husband, Nina wants a teaching certificate and Viktor wishes to get rich. Instead, they pick grapes, change bedpans, put bits of cars together in factories and are treated by employers as though they were "deaf and dumb, an animal hard to house train." The strength of the book lies in the poignant and original story, although the characters, perhaps because they were originally envisioned as roles to be filled by actors, lack the depth that would make them more than spectral presences.

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