Subject: Australia and New Zealand

In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

One of America’s premier humorous writers looks down under. Eighty percent of flora and fauna of this island continent are not located naturally any other place on earth. He reports that this country, which duplicates as a continent, has the friendliest people and the most lethal animals than any places on earth. He has visited many times and his description of it are typical Bryson. Affectionate and tongue in cheek. He makes you want to go there, as it is unique. Where else could you find anything from a boomerang to a kangaroo?

The Exiles by William Stuart Long

In the 1780s, Australia was replaced by England as a penal colony after the American Revolution. The ships were small, crowded and populated by everyone from someone in a debtor’s prison, to murderers and thieves of a loaf of bread because they were starving. People were literally dropped off to make do as they could in a bare unsettled environment. There was not a lot of organization to this hostile territory. This book is the first in a series of the history of Australia and how they survived and prospered, or not. Well written and easy to read.

It reminded our group of Grover’s Stone Soup event, where there was digeridoo music, which is an aborigine instrument with a sound that is both hard to describe and haunting. Also discussed were penal colonies when prisons were small and inhumane and the realization that ‘prisoners’ could be a child or very elderly person. 

Evonne Goolagong by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara

Our reader wanted to read something about this icon but could only find a children’s book locally.  Evonne was the third of 8 children of a Wiradjuri (Aborigine) family. She found a tennis ball as a child and her father carved her a “tennis racket” out of a piece of wood, actually a paddle.  Aborigines were not allowed on white’s tennis courts at the time, so she batted the ball around outside the courts imitating what she saw. She was noticed by a tennis coach, who let her come practice on the courts after closing. She was noticed again and began her uphill climb. She won the Australian, United States and in 1971 the Wimbledon titles defeating Margaret Court. A special person!

Our reader was surprised at how many others knew of Evonne and had watched her triumphs.

The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough

Perhaps this author was best known for “The Thornbirds.” She was born in Australia and was a neuroscientist and taught neuroscience at Yale Medical School for 10 years. She began writing in 1976 and authored many books, many about Australia. This small book was about a rich patriarchal clan in the Blue Hills of Australia who held vast acres of property and “owned” the town of Byron. Having 16 children he educated and left large parcels to his boys but did not want his girls married for his money, so he only gave them a house and a small parcel of land, the husband needing to make the living. The “ladies were a widow, her unmarried daughter and the widow’s sister, who because of the parents will had a house, land and no money, as the husband had died after two years of marriage. The daughter described as plain, and her life was “brown’ and brown hid dirt and was easy to clean? One of the son’s wives had a bookstore, which was also a subscription lending library. This was the daughter’s escape. The biggest surprise was that this turned out to be a ghost story. Who knew?

This book is available at the Grover Beach Community Library in both Large and Regular print fiction.

Our list was short this month as one member had traveled most of the month and another got bogged down by a favorite author and hadn’t come up for air yet.

  • Fran Strauser