By KATE HUNTER
I could go all highbrow on this post and write about the Australian novels I studied, absorbed, respected as I was growing up. There were many – I was quite a reader. Perhaps because my family had a, ‘no TV during the week’ rule. I despised my parents for it at the time – now I thank them, and wish I had the guts to impose similar boundaries on my own kids.
The first book I really remember as being ‘Australian’ is Seven Little Australians. I don’t know why I related to it – their life in the bush couldn’t have been more different from my brick veneer suburban world. Maybe because it was about brothers and sisters and loss? Even now I get nervous around gum trees in strong winds.
Oh, Ju-Ju, please don’t die.
Then there was My Brother Jack. This was one of those books we were ‘made’ to study at school. Thanks to the enthusiasm of Mrs Brosnan (who’s still teaching at the same school, 27 years after I left), we learned books could have swear words and still be considered literature. It was a revelation. My brother Jack was gritty, honest, funny and gave us LOTS to talk about, years before we’d even heard of book clubs.
Whenever I think I can’t write, I re-read A Fortunate Life.
Although A B Facey never did a creative writing course, barely went to school, wouldn’t know an adjective if it bought him a beer, he wrote the most evocative, charming and powerful autobiography I think I’ve ever read. And he didn’t even DO anything much. He didn’t circumnavigate the globe, win Wimbledon or party with a Kardashian. He wrote the story of a life that was remarkable in its ordinariness. And it’s stunning.
Despite all that, I’m almost embarrassed to admit the Australian book that made the biggest impact on me was The Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullogh. I read it at a rented beach house at about age 15 and fell in love with the ‘saga’. This book is the literary equivalent of Sizzler – something for everyone – love, landscape, history, religion, family, natural disaster, human torment, adventure and sex. Like Sizzler, it’s not especially nutritious, but it’s difficult to stop going back for more.
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