As Far As You Can Go by Lesley Glaister

A young attractive woman named Cassie responds to a newspaper ad for “Housekeeper/companions,” and so Cassie finds herself in a London hotel being interviewed for the job by Larry Drake. The job entails working in Australia on the remote Woolagong Station, “right on the tropic of Capricorn, fringes of the desert”— a former sheep station on a half million acres. While the sheep station is no longer in operation, Larry claims that he needs a young couple to work around the ranch and help with his wife:

‘What do we actually do?’ she says. ‘On a daily basis, I mean.’

‘What would you expect to do?’

‘I’m not sure–housekeeping and so on?’

‘Yes. Certainly that. Mara, my wife, she is not–let us say not entirely “well.” She needs help with –‘ the corner of his lip twitches, ‘housekeeping, yes, but she also needs companionship. I’m away sometimes, and,’ he stretches out his arms,’ as you see, the place we live –Woolagong Station–it’s somewhat … remote.’

Well at this point, any sensible person would be out the door, but Cassie isn’t really thinking properly. She should be asking herself why an Australian has to come all the way to London to find a young couple to work in a remote region of the outback. Surely climate alone should dictate that a native Australian would be better suited to the job, and would at least have a good idea of what to expect. There’s something wrong with the whole set up and there’s something wrong with Larry–even Cassie, who thinks that job is the answer to her problems, is aware that the situation feels wrong and that Larry gives off  a strange vibe.

There’s something pleasantly reptilian about him, a grain of god in his skin. If he took off his shirt, you wouldn’t be surprised to find a pattern there, like lizard skin. She blinks, startled by the thought.

So why is Cassie willing to overlook her gut feelings and plunge ahead with this insane plan? We discover the answer to that when she returns home to Graham and breaks the news that she’s accepted the job for both of them. According to Cassie, the job in Australia is going to be a turning point in their relationship. Out there for a year’s contract on Woolagong Station, Cassie reasons that they can work out their problems. Since the major points of contention in the relationship are Graham’s habits of disappearing for days and refusing to accept monogamy, the remoteness of their new employment is a bit like making Graham go cold turkey.

‘But–what about last month when you went out for a paper and disappeared for a week? Or July? No–don’t. I don’t want to hear any excuses or anything. I want you to be here for me. Like a proper partner. A proper committed partner. No more flings. No more disappearing off. If you can’t do that then—‘ She slices her hand through the air.

If Cassie were sensible, she’d realize that Graham is his own person who cannot (and should not) be controlled, say ‘sayonara toots’ and move on to someone more suited to her temperament, but no. Instead she’s willing to go to extremes to keep Graham monogamous and by her side. It’s as if a year in the remote Woolagong station is required for Graham to be trained to be the kind of man Cassie wants.

as far as you can goGraham and Cassie soon have reason to regret Cassie’s decision to take the job. Woolagong station is slap bang in the middle of exactly … nowhere, Larry, who claims to be a doctor, seems to have an unhealthy interest in Cassie, and exactly why does Larry’s wife live in the shed????

As Far as You can Go, a novel of psychological suspense, shows how Cassie’s poor decision to accept the job leads to a very creepy situation. Cassie and Graham are completely dependent on Larry, and the environment at Woolagong isn’t exactly normal…

The novel is well structured and nicely paced, but in spite of this, when I turned the last page, something seemed to be missing–although I seem to be in the minority opinion on Goodreads. For this reader, all of the characters in the novel were rather unpleasant, and while that isn’t in itself a problem as I enjoy reading about nasty people, it was difficult to care about what happened to the two main characters–potential victims–Cassie and Graham. Both Cassie and Graham seem to be incredibly warped human beings: Cassie is determined to make Graham into the sort of man she wants in spite of the fact that the raw material falls far short of her expectations, and Graham seems both sleazy and weak-willed. Dig a little deeper, and there are some creepy similarities between Cassie and Larry as they are both people who are willing to go to extremes to control the behaviour of someone else. My sympathy for Cassie, Miss Organic Gardener, ended when she squashed a caterpillar who dared to venture into the vegetable garden, and at that point, who cares if they find themselves in the middle of nowhere with some nut job?

Review copy

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20 Comments

Filed under Fiction, Glaister Lesley

20 responses to “As Far As You Can Go by Lesley Glaister

  1. I read this last year, and rather enjoyed it, although another reviewer, with whom I usually concur , hated it! It’s one of these books where, once you get the big reveal, it goes downhill – rather like The Hidden Girl, which I’ve just read. Often the journey’s more satisfying than the destination. But I like Lesley Glaister, she’s a talented author. Little Egypt did well, and I hope to read it sometime soon – you may already have got to it.

  2. I’m fine with unlikeable characters, but there has to be some kind of emotional hook, something to empathise with or latch onto for me to care what happens to them. It’s a pity this one didn’t quite deliver for you as the set-up sounds rather creepy.

  3. In spite of your reservations I was sure this would be a book for me and then came the caterpillar crushing . . .
    The premise howvere still sounds great.

  4. You may like The Dead Heart by Douglas Kennedy. Also in the outback.
    I enjoyed your review and your vision of Cassie.

    “the remoteness of their new employment is a bit like making Graham go cold turkey.” Cassie really has strange ideas about how to fix a relationship. She wants to train him to monogamy like you potty train toddlers. No likely.

    How can she find Larry « pleasantly reptilian » Isn’t this is an oxymoron? These two words don’t belong together.

    • There’s a film made of The Dead Heart (which I haven’t read) but while I really love that film, I somehow wonder how close it follows the book.

      For the pleasantly reptilian, I interpreted it to mean that she found him a bit attractive when she really shouldn’t have as he wasn’t that attractive.
      Yes, Cassie pissed me off right from the start.

  5. The setup sounds incredibly unlikely to me, the job and the acceptance and the boyfriend actually going with her. I think that would put me off.

    Evie Wyld’s All the Birds, Singing, also features an isolated Aussie farm. They have a lot of them…

    • The farms there can be hundreds of thousands of acres; Argentinian ranches are huge too. My dad’s farm is 3000 acres and its pretty big; I can’t even imagine how huge these places are….not that I’ll be going to any after reading this book…

      • Oh I know, it’s not the physical bit I find incredible, it’s the psychological. It’s the acceptance of such a strange job offer, the boyfriend following even more so, not the job so much itself.

        3,000 acres? Bloody hell.

        I do agree with your opening comment about the journey often being better than the destination. The need to amp up tension can lead to things getting a bit silly sometimes can’t it?

        • Absolutely – it’s all the possibilities that a book opens up, and 9 times out of 10, after your imagination has run riot, you end up thinking, is that all it was?! Still, if the journey’s great, it can still make for a good book. It is insane, what they do, but I think if you’re a basically decent person, you assume others are too…for example, I don’t lie, apart from “Your hair’s nice” type stuff, and my other half always teases me about how gullible I am as I invariably believe other people’s lies! I’m really naive that way! So I assumed that was why she decided it was a good idea to go to the outback, and her naivete got them into that mess.

          • Max and Wormy: I thought that there was a beautiful irony to the story: here’s this woman who drags her philandering worse half off to the outback to basically control him knowing that he can’t be unfaithful or wander off, and there’s this weirdo who hires these two idiots and takes them into the middle of nowhere for his, yet unrevealed, nefarious purposes. Both Cassie and Larry want isolation for their own personal gains. More could have been made of this, and that might have helped the unsympathetic factor.

    • I couldn’t get through all The Birds Singing. This one at least didn’t have much in the way of animals but when they did appear, it wasn’t pretty

  6. Sounds, well, interesting I suppose. My question to you is why you chose to read this book? Have you read the author before, or was it your fascination with the land of my birth? Regardless, I did enjoy your write-up which I read right through as I don’t imagine I’ll be picking this one up soon! Sorry, but there it is!

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