Thursday, July 05, 2007

Great Australian Novel

I was so busy last week that I somehow managed to miss doing BTT but I am back on track with this week's Booking Through Thursday question!

What with yesterday being the Fourth of July and all, I’m feeling a little patriotic, and so have a simple question:

What, in your opinion, is the (mythical) Great American Novel? At least to date. A “classic,” or a current one–either would be fine. Mark Twain? J.D. Salinger? F. Scott Fitzgerald? Stephen King? Laura Ingalls Wilder?

It doesn’t have to be your favorite book, mind you. “Citizen Kane” may be the “best” film, and I concede its merits, but it’s not my favorite. You don’t have to love something to know that it’s good.

Now, I know that not all of you are American–but you can play, too! What I want from you is to know what you consider to the best novel of YOUR country. It might be someone the rest of us haven’t heard of and, frankly, I think we’d all like to get some new authors to read.

This question has had me thinking ever since I read it, and there have been a few different titles that I have thought of. My first thoughts were of books like All the Rivers Run by Nancy Cato that tell stories of early Australia (in this case about life on the paddle steamers that run on the inland river system in Australia), but then if Australian history was going to be my focus then my choice would have to be For the Term of his Natural Life by Marcus Clarke - the story of a convict sent to Australia.

Another good one is A Fortunate Life by AB Facey:

The remarkable story of an 'ordinary' man. Bert Facey's childhood ended when he was eight years old. That was when his grandmother had to send him away to work for his keep. Bert grew up tough in the vast, wild outback of Western Australia. He lived to eighty-seven, and wrote down his extraordinary story for his grandchildren. In spite of its difficulties and sufferings, he always believed he had had 'a fortunate life'.

For other good examples of the battling Aussie spirit, another option would be Ruth Park's classic books that include Harp in the South and A Poor Man's Orange, set in the slum suburbs of Sydney during the Depression. Ruth Park also wrote one of Australia's classic children's stories The Muddle Headed Wombat.

I am sure that there are other books that I should be mentioning but that's a start!


  1. Great choices!

    I love Ruth Park (Swords and Crowns was the first one of hers that I read) - and Muddleheaded Wombat is a firm favourite with my children.

    Great topic for BTT this week :)

    PS: Not apropos of anything but did you know that RP was an exported Kiwi ? Spent more of her life in Australia than NZ in the end I think, but did quite a body of work related to NZ as well.

  2. I don't recall knowing that before, but I did see it tonight when I was trying to recall both the book titles! Seems that she wasn't overly successful in terms of sales etc in New Zealand.

  3. I'm ashamed to admit that I've read so few Australian novels that I can't even take a decent stab at this. I read Harp in the South in high school, but I can't remember it now except that it was depressing. And I was going to read For the Term of His Natural Life around the same time, but I skimmed through it and it sounded too traumatic. There was just no justice, and I couldn't bring myself to read it.

    I tried to read a Tim Winton novel a couple of years ago, but I got as far as page 2 before giving up. :(

  4. I've read one Tim Winton and was left confused by it more than anything!

  5. Ah . . . authors I hadn't heard of. Excellent!

  6. Marg, which one did you read? Wasn't Cloudstreet touted as the quintessential Aussie novel?

    Also, what about My Brilliant Career? And I've just heard of a novel called Eucalyptus, which intrigues me because it sounds like a romance, but first I have to find someone who can confirm that it has a happy ending. *g*

  7. I pretty ashamed that I haven't read more by Australian authors either. I picked up Dirt Music at a library sale not too long ago.

    And isn't Kate Grenville Australian?

    Thanks for sharing all of these authors. Most I haven't heard of!

  8. Kat, I read Dirt Music. One day I should read more by him! I haven't ever read My Brilliant Career. They are supposed to be making a movie of Eucalyptus. I really should read that too!

    Stephanie, If anyone should be ashamed of not reading more Aussie authors... it is an Aussie! Like me!

  9. I lied...I didn't read Dirt Music. I read The Riders!

  10. Totally agree with you! Love Harp In The South and A Fortunate Life. Both brilliant.
    I'm from Melb too!

  11. I don't know any of those books sadly. I will try and find some reviews though and expand my reading. Thinking about it I am not sure I have read any Australian authors besides Fiona Horne hmm.



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