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The Book of Science and Antiquities

A Novel


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About The Book

Thomas Keneally, the bestselling author of The Daughters of Mars and Schindler’s List, brings his “insightful and nimble prose” (The New York Times Book Review) to this exquisite exploration of community and country, love and morality, set in both prehistoric and modern Australia.

An award-winning documentary filmmaker, Shelby Apple is obsessed with reimagining the full story of the Learned Man—a prehistoric man whose remains are believed to be the link between Africa and ancient Australia. From Vietnam to northern Africa and the Australian Outback, Shelby searches for understanding of this enigmatic man from the ancient past, unaware that the two men share a great deal in common.

Some 40,000 years in the past, the Learned Man has made his home alongside other members of his tribe. Complex and deeply introspective, he reveres tradition, loyalty, and respect for his ancestors. Willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good, the Learned Man cannot conceive that a man millennia later could relate to him in heart and feeling.

In this “meditation on last things, but still electric with life, passion and appetite” (The Australian), Thomas Keneally weaves an extraordinary dual narrative that effortlessly transports you around the world and across time, offering “a hymn to idealism and to human development” (Sydney Morning Herald).

About The Author

Photograph © Newspix via Getty Images

Thomas Keneally began his writing career in 1964 and has published thirty-three novels since, most recently Crimes of the FatherNapoleon’s Last IslandShame and the Captives, and the New York Times bestselling The Daughters of Mars. He is also the author of Schindler’s List, which won the Booker Prize in 1982, The Chant of Jimmie BlacksmithGossip from the Forest, and Confederates, all of which were shortlisted for the Booker Prize. He has also written several works of nonfiction, including his boyhood memoir Homebush BoyThe Commonwealth of Thieves, and Searching for Schindler. He is married with two daughters and lives in Sydney, Australia.

Why We Love It

“The last section of the book is one of the most beautiful and potent things I’ve ever read—I was in tears the first time I read it, and every time I’ve read it since then. You won’t forget the ending of this book, NOT because it’s got a twist—it ends exactly as it has to—but because it’s rendered so intimately and so profoundly.” —Peter B., VP, Editor-in-Chief, on The Book of Science and Antiquities

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria Books (December 1, 2020)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982121044

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Raves and Reviews

"Uncovers a rich hidden seam in Australian history...Passionate and heartfelt.”

– The Times (London)

"Vigorous, bighearted and terrifically direct.”

– Daily Mail (London)

“[A] brave and complex book.”

– Irish Examiner (Cork)

“Tackles meaty themes and tricky parallels . . . Wonderfully imaginative.”

– The Mail on Sunday (London)

“This is a story of how to die but also of how to live . . . Consistently engaging, provocative and original . . . Keneally’s art is to make the profound accessible. The important is rendered seamlessly . . . The simple message is that there is a communality to the human experience that spans forty-two thousand years.”

– The Herald (Glasgow)

“A blunt meditation on last things, but still electric with life, passion and appetite...The account of two exceptional men who have lived ordinary lives: ordinary in the sense that they may be viewed as universal, as experiences of what it is to be a man, with all the virtues and humiliations that attend that station, across time and space...[An] intensely personal, hugely inventive and often moving novel.”

– The Australian

"A rather brave book. This impressive sketch of ghostly affinities between a man who makes images at once artistic and real out of the life he records and shapes, and another who conjures and kills and wills himself on the tightrope of justice and mercy in a time that Keneally is very adept at animating."

– The Saturday Paper (Australia)

"This is, charmingly, a book by an old man about two other old men, all three acutely aware of mortality and each making the old man's declaration: "I will talk how I want to talk for as long as I choose about whatever I want to talk about." It's quite glorious really. The whole book is a hymn to idealism, and to human development."

– The Sydney Morning Herald

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