CHANGING COUNTRIES BRIDGING WORLDS: THE POETRY AND PROSE OF MARGARET SCOTT
Janet Upcher ( Ginninderra Press, 2014, $ 22.50)
SOME may have overlooked the significant contribution of Dr Margaret Scott to Tasmania’s literary heritage.
She is a former Professor of English at the University of Tasmania and recipient of the 2005 Australia Council Writers Emeritus Award. Tasmanian author and editor, Janet Upcher gives a provocative critique and analysis of Margaret Scott’s work in this elegant and scholarly work.
I first met Margaret Scott in the summer of 1959. Her husband had taken up a teaching appointment at the prestigious Hobart High School. It was soon after their arrival and clearly the travel, heat and alien environment had taken their toll. She was initially subdued, even reclusive. Little did we know that beneath her modest and self- effacing exterior was an enormous literary talent, an incisive wit and an influential social activist. Foremost, however, was her indomitable spirit. During her lifetime she experienced recurring ill health and other adversities including the destruction of her home and belongings by fire. Rather than being diminished by these circumstance she endured and her literary works flourished.
Janet Upcher organises her analysis here into prose and poetry. Scott’s poetry in particular, is voluminous. Her deep insights and imaginings reflect most aspects of her daily life. They are often intensely personal and frequently defy interpretation. Her novels, however, speak profoundly. They are brilliantly revealed here. In particular, the truths in her first novel The Baby Farmer, immerses the reader in the terrible inequities of Victorian society. Upcher’s timely and engaging work makes a compelling case for Margaret Scott’s inclusion among Tasmania’s literary elite, alongside Koch, Lohrey, Flanagan, Harwood, Reynolds, Pierce and Vivian Smith.