Exiles In Goldsworthy's novel, Maestro, all of the main characters are exiles, people who have moved to Darwin from other countries - such as Keller - or other states - such as the Crabbe family. Not everyone, however, tries to re-create their former lives in Darwin. Mr and Mrs Crabbe endeavor to do so, but Keller wants to obliterate his tragic past, and chooses Darwin as his hiding place. For Paul, Darwin is different from Adelaide, but he quickly adapts to his new home because it meets his needs, and Adelaide becomes a distant memory.
Darwin is an ideal place for exiles, many of them fugitives from another life "They sought forgetfulness, not remembrance. " Darwin. A town populated by men who had run as far as they could flee". In the case of Paul's parents, however, they are unwilling exiles from the South. John Crabbe's job in Adelaide was as a medical doctor for the government, but he always regarded music as more important then his work "To both my parents, music was their true career".
Nancy Crabbe is a retired librarian, and now a housewife, "But only worked part time at that". Mrs Crabbe is most dissatisfied when she arrives in Darwin and sees their home; "Left a bluestone villa in the South for this". Very quickly Mr and Mrs Crabbe fall into their familiar pattern by forming a Gilbert and Sullivan society as they have done wherever they have been posted, "More musical gypsies than Doctor and Doctor's Wife, they had left a trail of Gilbert and Sullivan performances across the South - a different operetta in every town in which we lived".
For Paul, however, the past in Adelaide soon recedes, and he becomes assimilated into Darwin life, with new friends and interests. Adelaide is part of his childhood memories "There was only one City, it seemed then: a far-off magical place". It is because Paul loves "The town of booze and blow at first sight" that he does not feel the need to bring aspects of his former life to his new home. Being young, he is more adaptable than the adults in the novel. Paul is concerned with growing up and developing his talent, and his lessons with Keller, together with his friendships with Bennie Reid, Jimmy Papas, Megan and Rosie make this possible.
In Keller's case, the situation is very different. The reason why Keller comes to Darwin is because, he wanted to punish himself for the past where he was the cause of his wife and sons death "He believed he was too important to be touched". Keller's main purpose in his self-exile was to leave behind his emotional baggage, but this was not possible. Keller seeks forgetfulness by drinking too much alcohol "Unforgettable: the red glow of his face - a boozer's incandescent glow". Even though Keller had enough money to "Fly anywhere he pleased, to live anywhere he pleased", he chose to live in an exotic hot house where there was little culture, and he was entirely unknown. There are some signs that indicate he cannot entirely break with the past - his pianos, the German newspapers, his scrapbook. When Keller shouts and breaks down at the concert when the orchestra is playing Wagner, the cause is Keller's memory - of the horror of his experience under Hitler. When Paul goes to Vienna to see Henisch, Paul tells him that "Keller is alive and living in Australia", Henisch does not believe Paul and he tells Paul that he believes "He died on one of the last marches". This is an indication, that shows, how well Keller erased his old life.
Keller blames himself for the tragedy in his past. He should have left Vienna, but his pride in his reputation as a great pianist kept him there. He thought his fame would protect him and his family, but it did not insulate him from the Nazis. When Keller comes to Darwin he has lost faith in music and in beauty, and wants to erase his past.
For all of the main characters in Maestro, exile in Darwin is a different experience. John and Nancy Crabbe have moved many times, and in each place they start a Gilbert and Sullivan societies, as they do in Darwin. When they journey back to Adelaide they visit the towns they had lived in previously "Visiting old friends, reliving past Gilbert and Sullivan triumphs". For Paul, Darwin is where he spends the most important years of his youth, and while he has pleasant memories of life in the South, he accepts and enjoys life in the tropics. Keller has chosen Darwin as a place to hide from his terrible past, and to some extent from himself. In Paul, however, he sees memories of his dead son, Eric, and in many ways Paul becomes a substitute for Keller's son - part of the life of Keller has tried to leave behind. Thus, for each of the exiles in Maestro, Darwin is a different experience - not all of them want to re-create their former lives in this new place.