Thursday, January 9, 2014

Moving among strangers

In 1965 the book, To the islands by Randolph Stow was on the Matriculation reading list. I had never read a book like this before and was particularly fascinated with the descriptions of the Australian outback and the moral issues faced by the characters. I thank my English teacher for her enthusiasm for the book and for introducing me to the works of Randolph Stow. I later read and enjoyed Tourmaline and years read Stow's children's book, Midnite: the story of a Wild Colonial Boy, with my children. Unfortunately Randolph Stow has become a neglected author in Australian literature.

I was therefore interested to read this book by Gabrielle Carey which has the subtitle, Randolph Stow and my family. Carey's mother had been a friend of Stow and the discovery of a few letters prompted the author to discover more about the life of Randolph Stow, his relationship with her family and in consequence discover much about the history of her family. To a large extent the book is about uncovering family stories that have been hidden over time. It also demonstrates the importance of not taking one person's version of events as necessarily being the truth. In her search Carey meets members of her family in Western Australia that the previous generation would have nothing to do with and that meeting provides a different interpretation of the family story. Conversely in England she needs to speak to many people who knew Stow to try and piece together the later years of his life in exile away from Australia.

After reading this book I now want to reread To the islands and Tourmaline and also another title by Stow, The merry-go-round in the sea. I also need to find our copy of Midnite so that our grandchildren can read it when they are older. The book however is also a useful example of how one can uncover the stories that are important to understanding how a family has evolved over time and actions that have affected actions of family members.

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