Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Drowner” as Want to Read:
The Drowner
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Drowner

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  219 ratings  ·  27 reviews
Will Dance is the son of a "drowner", a man who understands the secrets of irrigation. With actress Angelica Lloyd, whom he meets at the public baths, Will journeys to western Australia to work on the engineering miracle that was to bring fresh water uphill to a desert town gripped by two fevers: the goldrush and typhoid. While the love story of Angelica and Will is at the ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published 1998 by Picador/Pan Macmillan (first published 1996)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Drowner, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Drowner

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.53  · 
Rating details
 ·  219 ratings  ·  27 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Drowner
Aug 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Superb, lyrical writing, such that you almost hear the Moody Blues' Seventh Sojourn playing in the background, this is a book that takes you back to those deep, meaningful/less metaphysical discussions of your youth.

Forget the idealistic young English engineer, Will Dance, a drowner at heart; forget the beautiful self-centred and damaged actress, Angelica; forget Inez, the young Melbourne socialite now cleaning maggots from the wounds of miners on the Goldfields; forget the visionary C.Y. O'Conn
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017
A beautiful book. I have owned this for over 10 years and am not sure why it's taken me so long to get around to reading it. Started slowly, but became addictive reading in a slow and lulling way. Mostly set in the backdrop of Western Australia and CYO Connor's pipeline to Kalgoorlie. So much sadness, but a joy to read. One of those books that I couldn't stop reading, knew I'd be sad to leave behind when I'd finished, but still read at every chance I got.
Marianne Broadgate
Dec 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Provides good insight into how things were in Perth in the very early days and particularly the amazing feat with tragic ends for the main architect/engineer CY O'Connor. Fictional characters with a factual backdrop. I found it hard to read at first the way the story twists and turns, but once I got used to the style I enjoyed it.
Jane Odgers
Jul 11, 2011 rated it liked it
Will Dance was only "nettle high, thistle high, riding on his father's shoulders" when he learned about drowning. His father, like the mole he shows to Will, and like generations of Dances before him, is a drowner: "an artist, a craftsman, a personage", who knows how to bring water from river to meadow exactly as and when it is needed.

Will, like other young men of his time, prefers science to art. But his medium is water, and his profession as a civil engineer in the early days of the twentieth
Aug 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-fiction
Australian literary and historical fiction at its best. The Drowner romances people, place, and time through an elemental journey beginning in England, across Africa, and on to the vast and thirsty interior of the Western Australian goldfields. There is much for the inner soul here: you will taste the water, smell the decay, feel the heat, and you will want to cherish love while you can.

With all great books, you will be left wanting more, needing to know much more. You will be required to do som
Jul 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very slow and boring to start with, but I was enjoying it by the end. I never would have finished this if I wasn't studying it in school.
Dylan Goddard
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
There are many things to like about the poetic nature of Drewe’s writing, and I was fascinated by his presentation of life in Perth and the Goldfields in particular, being a Western Australian.

However, there were many times I found the plot surrounding Will and Angelica really boring. Particularly the early part of the book (first 100 or so pages). Plus, the random perspectives of Felix, Inez and Axel seemed to confuse more than add to the story.

Some very nice touches but a bit too much of a cho
Tim Nason
Oct 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: england, africa, australia
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best books leave you gasping for air, drowning in jealousy that you did not write them. They fill you with the need to reread them, to prove to yourself the assumptions you have made. They make sense only in a place of consciousness which exists in the space between reader and writer, and linger like perfume in the air a while after you've finished.

Robert Drewe's The Drowner is one of the best books I have read this year.

I stumbled across it by chance. Looking for scholarly material on The S
Sep 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-ed-class
This is a beautifully written book full of symbolism. I can see why some critics complained that the story drowns in its own water symbolism, but I loved it. Drewe said he was trying to write a great (capital 'R') romance and I think he has in the best sense of the genre. It is complex and unpredictable, moving and thought-provoking. I would highly recommend it and will send my copy* to my mum when I'm done using it for my night class, I hope she will send it back to me afterwards.

Happy reading
Dec 12, 2014 rated it liked it
I had to read this book for a class, but boy did l find it hard to read! Well, to start anyway. The first part is very slow and well, dry, for wont of a better term. It has a morose vibe to it throughout which isn't attractive either. But alas, if you prevail to the end, it's an interesting story, with rich descriptions of each setting, which changes from England, to Africa, to Western Australia. I learnt about the fascinating history of WA, which as an Aussie was brilliant. I want to know more ...more
Jun 02, 2014 rated it did not like it
What a terrible story. Look..... the language was lovely in parts, and this could have been an outstanding book but it was dull dull dull.
If I want to know the intricacies of moving water I will read a book about it. I do not want a book disguised as a love story to bore me to death with technical information about water.

I belive that Australian school children are sometimes required to read this book as part of their curriculum and I believe that this does a great injustice to the kids. If any
Oct 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Some books are better when you read them twice. The Drowner is one of those books. The first time I read it, I didn't particularly like it. I was only reading it for school. The second time I read it I actually understood what was going on and I realised I had missed a lot of genius. It is a complex love story which explores the changing tensions between Will Dance and Angelica Lloyd, the two main protagonists within the context of the Australian gold rush. I think you may enjoy this book if you ...more
Heather Goldsmith
May 22, 2016 rated it liked it
I struggled to get through the first section of the book, as it seemed a bit too indistinct for me. I did enjoy all of the parts set in Western Australia and many of the characters were interesting to read about. I had several laugh out loud moments, but overall it's not the kind of book I'd recommend to anyone. I only pushed through to complete this because I'm reading it for a book club. I'd not have continued after the first part if not for the book group. That said, I'm looking forward to di ...more
Rich Gamble
Jun 09, 2011 marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
I consider Robert Drewe's the bodysurfers to be one of the best Australian books ever but this is certainly not. Vague and disjointed story that tries to set up an occupation of drowning crops ie manipulating water on the farm to be semi religious, weird character names such as 'Alphabet Dance' and some romance between an engineer and a pretentious actress. Gave up after approx 50 pages.
Michael Scott
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Poetic prose often makes for a lumpy, leaden or overwrought story. Robert Drewe's visceral, languid and sensuous language ensures that 'The Drowner' eddies and churns where others sink like sack stuffed cats thrown into the canal. The books swirls from Wiltshire to Australia with a sense of wonder and hope in spite of the harshest realities. A beautiful book.
Aug 10, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm glad I persisted with this Robert Drewe book.It wasn't easy going at the start and probably half the book, but then things got interesting. Water is used as a metaphor for a lot of things including life and death. There is a lot going on here - I liked The Shark Net better, but will now search out another Drewe to read, maybe the Ned Kelly one
Nov 16, 2015 rated it liked it
I found this book difficult to start - but once the story hit Western Australia, it really picked up. I found that quite a few things in the book were quite vague, and difficult to interpret, so I'm looking forward to my bookclub discussion to see if others interpreted the story the same way as I did.
Tegan Rowbotham
It took me quite a while to get into this story, but it turned into an interesting story. It did lose me a few times tho. It is beautifully written and the language is lovely.
Feb 19, 2014 rated it liked it
Read 1998
Good Book.
Very long.
Very poetic.
I found some of the plot a little boring.
Loved the historical CY O'Connor stuff.
Mar 01, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Gave up. Dull. One star is one too many.
Sep 20, 2014 rated it did not like it
Tried, and tried again. Couldn't find anything in this book to keep me interested.
Bruce Williams
Aug 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Lyrical and moving romance of love, water, gravity. For something so carefully written, why the cliches? "Dulcet tones" for instance appears twice. Another west Australia fabulous tale
Lesley Moseley
Read this book years ago and sought it out again as I remembered how interesting the historic facts were, as well as the suberb writing skills of Robert Drewe. Enjoyed it immensely, again.
Nov 23, 2014 rated it it was ok
Two and a half stars
Rosie Lane
rated it liked it
Dec 25, 2019
William Freeman
May 17, 2015 rated it did not like it
One of the most verbose over written piece of .... I have read in a long time avoid.
rated it liked it
Jan 11, 2014
Shane P Tapley
rated it really liked it
May 03, 2020
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Into the Great Wide Open
  • Lying Awake
  • Martin Sloane
  • The Turning
  • Oddfellows
  • Many Things Have Happened Since He Died
  • A Virtuous Woman
  • Trash: Stories
  • Montana 1948
  • Ellen Foster
  • The Life All Around Me By Ellen Foster (Ellen Foster, #2)
  • Out Stealing Horses
  • You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup
  • David Balfour (David Balfour, #2)
  • Afternoon of a Good Woman
  • Mischka's War
  • The Flamethrowers
  • People Without Power: the war on populism and the fight for democracy
See similar books…
Robert Drewe is among Australia’s most loved writers – of novels, memoir and short stories. His iconic Australian books include The Shark Net, The Bodysurfers and Our Sunshine. He is also editor of Black Inc.’s Best Australian Stories annual series. Recently, he has revisited the short story himself, with a masterful new collection, The Rip. Jo Case spoke to him for Readings about storytelling.

News & Interviews

Are you spending this season bundling up against the chill or enjoying summery southern hemisphere vibes (in which case we are...
85 likes · 29 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »