I found myself surprised when I realised that Jessie Hickman’s newborn, dead baby was telling large part of The Burial. It made The Burial an intriguing read right from the start. During the novel it becomes apparent that the title can be interpreted quite literally: Jessie buries her prematurely born baby in a shallow grave shortly after having killed it. One might suppose that she realised the baby was not going to survive their flight through the Australian outback. The burial also refers to the fact that in the course of the novel Jessie comes to terms with her life and buries her past in an act of self-sacrifice. Jessie is on the run after having killed her brutish husband. At first only policeman Barlow is interested in following Jessie, her lover Jack Brown decides to help him. He wants to make sure he is not blamed for the murder, he also wants to help Jessie. A chance encounter with a group of adolescent outlaws changes Jessie’s life. She sacrifices her freedom and possibly her life in order to save the lifes of the boys. Jessie has finally come to terms with her own life and past, she makes a determined choice on how to proceed.
The Burial is intriguing and exciting. Collins paints a picture of a harsh world where civilization has not arrived as yet (in Europe the roaring twenties had just started). Law is to be taken into your own hands, only the fittest survive in the unfriendly Australian mountains. At the end Collins surprises her readers by giving an unsuspected twist to the story. At that point I was even more determined to find out what was going to happen to Jessie (not being born in Australia I really had no idea). Jessie Hickman was an outlaw who is given a face in this beautifully written novel.