A Bit of Ruth Park- Australian Writer

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D’Arcy Niland and Ruth Park

My first book of 2020 is from an Australian female writer of the past, Ruth Park. The book is A Fence Around the Cuckoo, her autobiography of the first 25 years of her life. The remaining years are in a sequel entitled Fishing in the Styx, which I own but have not yet read. Bill Holloway of the AustralianLegend blog is hosting an Australian Women’s Writer week in January (here). I won’t have time to read a lot of the Gen 3 AWWs by mid January but this book qualifies.

Ruth Park was born in New Zealand in 1917 and died in 2010 at the age of 93. Part I of her biography details her first 25 years living in the north island of New Zealand with her large extended family in poverty during the war and depression years. She moved to Sydney in her early 20s where she remained the rest of her life.

She always knew from a very young age she wanted to write. Her parents struggled to ever meet her expectations because of their poverty. Her mother was one of six girls and a couple of brothers raised by Ruth’s grandmother and grandfather. They feature a lot in this story and I enjoyed hearing about their life of squabbles and affection.  Ruth lived with a couple of them from time to time when things got too bad.

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1992 first published

Ruth didn’t have any access to books at all until she was in her teens. Books weren’t available and neither was paper upon which to write. She talks of one of her uncles bringing home some forms from his office job, that were blank on the back and she thought it was Christmas. She coveted the paper and wrote every chance she got. If the desire to write is genetic she certainly had the gene for it. Her desire was strong.

The book details the type of work her parents and grandparents did, the description of the homes she lived in. Her father had done pretty good until the depression came, he couldn’t work and they lost their home after declaring bankruptcy. The ensuing years were very tough. It wasn’t until WWII when things began to pick up a bit.

I enjoyed hearing about her mother’s seamstress skills and her relationships with her sisters.

Ruth was greatly influenced by one of the nuns where she attended primary school at St. Benedicts.  The nun spent a great deal of time with her perfecting her writing skills, working her harder than the other students as she saw Ruth’s potential. As Ruth approached high school age the Sister helped her get a full scholarship for the rest of her school years.  I felt excited for her at that point, but sadly the family had to move away due to their financial situation and Ruth never got to take it up. I really felt for her.  She was still trying to find books to read without success. Her mother was supportive and wanted her to continue her education but was unable to help her.

Eventually Ruth got a job for the Star newspaper in Auckland, writing in the children’s section. At that time there were sections in newspapers for children of several pages which Ruth loved in her own childhood, if she could get her hands on a paper. During her time at the Star she realises how lowly paid female copy writers were compared to male writers. Most males didn’t believe there was any place for a woman on a newspaper. She was groundbreaking on that front eventually becoming a journalist.

She also met a man from Sydney who worked for newspapers there and they began an uncomfortable pen pal relationship. I say uncomfortable as she thought him a bit arrogant and he was keener to be with her than her with him. Her upbringing was very sheltered and she was also quite an independent child and wanted to remain so because of her own goals in life.

Eventually she moves to Sydney when she is 22 years old as she is offered work on a newspaper there. She learned that women were paid the same as men in copy editing and there were more opportunities.  Her relationship with her pen pal D’Arcy Niland, also a writer, developed more and they married not long after she arrived in Sydney.

I found the book interesting as I saw another side of New Zealand indigenous life, the depression years of the 1930s as well as life during the two world wars. I admired her tenacity and independence in staying focused on her goals throughout her young life. Nothing distracted her mentally. The circumstances ruling her life then were so tough.

As far as autobiographies go I really enjoyed this one. I’d like to read more of her books of which she wrote many during her lifetime.

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I also began the diaries mentioned in the last post as it’s the first of January.  I opened my own diary and loved seeing all the blank pages waiting to be filled. What will this year be like?

I thought as I read these diaries during the year I’ll add excerpts that I enjoy from different periods of time into some posts.

From A Traveller’s Year: “…in the knowledge that no one pines for me anywhere on earth, that there is no place where I am being missed or expected. To know that is to be free and unencumbered, a nomad in the great desert of life where I shall never be anything but an outsider”  Isabelle Eberhardt, Diary. 1900. 

I’d like to know more of Isabelle’s life. Until next time…..Screenshot 1

Lots of book, travel and photography news from Tasmania….finally!

Snip20190307_8I have a lot of catching up to do here.  Thanks for being so patient.  Last time I stopped by here I was preparing for the Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart.  I was supposed to work four days but only managed three days. It was full on and hot and my old body needed a day of rest. We walked more than 10 km per day with our cameras. When my body talks….I listen.  I will put up some photos on a Wordless Wednesday post or a Thursday Travels.

Snip20190307_9The weekend after the Wooden Boats we had the Kempton Festival for the day.  It was stinking hot that day and little shade. The country town of Kempton opens their doors for garage sales and a big festival full of locals and animals.  It was fun. I think that might be another Wednesday or Thursday post of photos. I won’t dwell on the six dogs I made the owner pull out of their car in the terrible heat. When will people learn you don’t put kids and pets in cars to wait for you in the stinking heat while going of to enjoy yourself.

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Tasmanian devils at Bonorong Sanctuary

Then we had visitors from Michigan. My husband’s cousin and his partner.  You won’t believe how much we did in a week. They arrived Sunday evening so a meal in the Cascade Brewery pub was called for. Monday- the top of Mt. Wellington and the MONA (Museum of Old and New Art Museum). Monday night was a home BBQ.  Tuesday was the Tasmanian Museum and the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. Tuesday night was a lovely Japanese meal out. Wednesday we managed the Botanical Gardens.  I had an author event so Mr. Penguin cooked them a pasta dinner.   Then Thursday we drove the 90 minute drive down to Port Arthur (the ruins of an 1800’s penal colony) with a breakfast stop on the way.  Mr. Penguin and Visitor Cousin had a

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Port Arthur Penal Colony

cousin/sister on the cruise ship with friends that day who took the ship’s tour to Port Arthur where we all met up. Then home we came and met them later on at a fish restaurant down on the wharf. They then sailed for New Zealand on the cruise ship and we came home

Friday was a quiet day just resting, drinking beer and watching Netflix a bit. On Saturday it was 39 degrees (that’s about 100 F) and Mr. Penguin took them back down the Tasman Peninsula for a Pennicott boat cruise that goes along the cliff faces on the Tasman Sea and sees lots of marine wildlife. I get very seasick as it’s quite a rough ride so

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Salamanca Place

I chose not to go. I stayed home and rested. Sunday saw us walking down around the
sandstone buildings of Salamanca and a stop for a cold beer.  They flew out to Melbourne Monday morning and we collapsed.  I took photos in most of these places so I think I’ll have a lot of Wordless Wednesdays and Travelling Thursdays coming up.

 

Now….did I read?  Yes I did manage some books.  There is no time to write a great deal about the books but I will give you a bit of a synopsis.

Snip20190307_1Book One- The Arsonist by well recognised author, Chloe Hooper, b. 1973 from Melbourne Australia. This book is Australian non fiction about the Black Saturday fires in the state of Victoria in 2009. There were 173 fatalities and many properties lost. The story is a journalistic investigation of the fire and what caused it? Who caused it?  I won’t give much more information as I don’t want spoilers.

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Chloe Hooper

It was a very interesting account and much was learned from that fire and new practises put into place.  Our Fuller’s Book Store Book group is reading it for this week’s meeting but as I am so exhausted from all the past month’s activity I chose to sleep at home through the meeting. There is a
group meeting tonight but I’m booked into a play tonight so will miss it. More on that later. (maybe)

I found this book incredibly interesting and the writing was not sensationalised.  It offered a lot of food for thought which is always good. The ramifications carry on for a long time.

Snip20190307_3The second book I managed to get through, as it’s a very short book was The Newspaper of Claremont Street by Australian author Elizabeth Jolley.  She had an incredibly interesting life and wrote quite a few books. (here for The Wikipedia entry about Ms Jolley)

The Australian author Tim Winton mentioned her as he studied under her at Curtain University in Western Australia in his book The Boy Behind the Curtain (short stories)

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Elizabeth Jolley 1923-2007

 I loved this book. It is a story of an elderly cleaning woman who services all of the affluent homes in her neighbourhood each day. She gets all of the gossip from every house and shares it with every other house. If something is happening she knows about it.

When her immigrant neighbour dies she is left caring for an extremely difficult wife of the man who died. There is some good black humour in this book. The character is verywell developed. We get to know her well and we feel the need for her to accomplish her goal of raising money for a certain ideal in her mind. I won’t say more than that. She lives in a room in a boarding house and we get used to her habits at home.  The last half of the story is about the relationship between her immigrant neighbour and how that develops.  I will certainly read more of her work and I believe I have one or two of her books on my shelf. She’s definitely an author I will look for in second hand shops.

 

Snip20190307_2The third book I just finished for the April Book Club read is The Everlasting Sunday by Robert Lukins. This is his first novel and is being nominated for all kinds of awards. The Good Reads blurb states:

During the freezing English winter of 1962, seventeen-year-old Radford is sent to Goodwin Manor, a home for boys who have been ‘found by trouble’. Drawn immediately to the charismatic West, Radford soon discovers that each one of them has something to hide.

Life at the Manor offers only a volatile refuge, and unexpected arrivals threaten the world the boys have built. Will their friendship be enough when trouble finds them again?

At once both beautiful and brutal, The Everlasting Sunday is a haunting debut novel about growing up, growing wild and what it takes to survive.

I found this a difficult book to get into. I had the audible edition and had trouble following it as there was too much going on in my life as I got to it in bits and pieces. I finally downloaded the eBook from the library on Overdrive, sat down properly in a chair with both versions, backed up a few chapters and began again. I then got a lot more out of it.

In the beginning I thought the author’s descriptions were over the top and I got irritated.

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Robert Lukins

Too many adjectives. I laughed out loud when he described someone’s lips “collapsing into themselves”. My mind is just too visual. I don’t need descriptions like this every few sentences. Then he calms down a bit and the characters take over more. I enjoyed the protagonist Radford, though you’re never sure why he’s in the boys home. It was a book that had an ominous overtone and I felt something awful was going to happen. I felt the book got a lot stronger as I continued. I would have liked more even character development. Some characters that turned out to be more important later on weren’t fleshed out enough that I cared about them.  There were a couple of characters;  Radford, his friend West and the boys adviser and mentor, Teddy who were quite well developed. I think it is a remarkable first novel but I can’t say I loved it as I went through it. I did want to see though how it was going to end. It made me curious. I wanted to know why Radford was in this place. He seemed such a nice young man. Well…. I will be interested to know what my book group thinks about it in April and it is certainly one meeting I won’t be missing.

My quick online research states that Robert Lukins lives in Melbourne and has worked as an art researcher and journalist. His writing has been published widely, including in The Big Issue, Rolling Stone, Crikey, Broadsheet and Overland . The Everlasting Sunday is his first novel

Whew!!!  A bit long winded but I wanted a good catch up to get me motivated again.  When one steps away from their blog for too long everything piles up and just can’t be covered.  I think this post is more than enough for all of us.Snip20181102_18

I want to wish everyone well. The northern hemisphere people are yearning for spring and summer especially in those cold places in the USA and UK.  The Southern Hemisphere people want the fires out (six of which continue in Tasmania with continued smoke here and there) and cooler temperatures. We always seem to want what we don’t have. So enjoy spring if you’re above the equator and enjoy autumn if you’re below it. More soon. I promise.