MILES FRANKLIN: A SHORT BIOGRAPHY by Jill Roe, HarperCollins
“Mar 30, 1899. Herewith a yarn I have written … with a little of that mythical commodity love, thrown in for young readers. Awaiting reply, Miles Franklin.” She didn’t wait long – in a week Angus and Robertson rejected My
Brilliant Career – “a serious mistake”, George Robertson later acknowledged. It was published by Blackwood in 1901, when Miles was 21. The brilliant writer died in 1954 and left her estate to establish the Miles Franklin Award for literature. At her funeral, the minister read from her other success All That
Swagger: “All too swiftly the day descended and declined.”
REACHING TIN RIVER by Thea Astley, Text
Beautiful reprint of this 1990 novel by fearless author Astley. Courageous narrator Belle longs for the love and company of her mother Bonnie, but she is “rarely maternal and spasmodically present”. Meanwhile, elder sister Marie and Bonnie “welded a partnership stronger than marriage”. Powerfully poignant storytelling, as Bonnie tells breathless Belle her favourite bedtime story - “the stuff of legend” - about the guests at Marie’s 18th birthday party. But she forgets to include the “vital piece of colour” about the bank clerk; Belle squealing, “With lots of teeth… and flat feet.” You can feel her deflation.
MY MOTHER, A SERIAL KILLER by Hazel Baron & Janet Fife-Yeomans, HarperCollins
When 15-year-old Hazel Baron got a job at a NSW hospital, she got away from the mother “who never let the truth get in the way of a good story”. Rewind to 1950, when Dulcie Baron, Hazel, nine, and her siblings sleep in tents. Dad Ted is out of hospital and unhappy about “hanger-on” Harry Bodsworth. In the morning Ted is gone – his body found in the Murray River. Dulcie and Harry are charged with his murder. Hazel bravely testifies in court. Later, Hazel and her husband fostered more than 100 children. “I thought, I’ll make up for a bit of what she had done.”
THE EPIC VOYAGES OF MAUD BERRIDGE by Sally Berridge, Bloomsbury
“I wish I had known you,” writes Sally Berridge to her late great-grandmother Maud. When researching family in England, the author discovered two of Maud’s diaries at the National Maritime Museum. Wed to master mariner Henry Berridge, Maud accompanied her husband on five voyages. In 1869 the new bride sailed to Melbourne, Henry taking the wheel as Captain, carrying migrants out of overcrowded England. “The fact she travelled with Henry indicates a love match.” On board Maud played the piano at church services and held operas. Maud took her dog Boxer, a good ratter.