How many of these Australian books have you read? I’ve read four. Not bad, but not fantastic. I don’t have enough scope on Australian literature to feel like I can vote for the top 10 books. But I’m a huge supporter of the oz. Just as I support fantasy, chick lit, sci-fi, flash fiction, historical, romance.. Yeah alright, everything then.
I am thankful that my course has compulsory Australian readings. I want to learn about writers who live near me. It is easier to learn the history of Australia when its told in beautiful prose and plot. I am curious and delighted that books like Kate Grenville’s “The Secret River” can make people so angry. Henry Handel Richarson lived 30 k’s down the road from my home-town in the 19th century.
I recently read Kim Scott’s “Benang” as a part of post-modernism study. It is a big one, about five hundred pages of fictional aboriginal family history. It is told from the first person perspective, “the first white man” as a 1/16th aboriginal, where the gene has been bred out. It is not an easy read. Physically and emotionally confronting, aboriginals are treated like animals and is a shocking reminder of Australia less than a hundred years ago. The story is broken up with letters from A. Neville, the Aboriginal protector who sends aboriginals away and forces the citizens to follow the law. The story is not told in a linear way, but revolves in a circle, like a campfire the protagonist’s stories are being told to him by his uncles. It is confusing, there are way too many characters. The reoccurring theme is the struggle, the family break-down and Ernest Solman Scat – the bastard grandfather. One image that will stick with me for a long time is Ernest forcing his sick wife into a bath of bleach to lighten her skin. The prose is quite beautiful and the narrator’s voice is strong. But there is no plot. This book drove me bonkers because it would have pages of descriptions and then fragments of scenes leading no-where.
I am interested to study it and learn more about Aboriginal history but please do not make me read it again.