A Little Bush Maid, by Mary Grant Bruce

Reviewed by Tash Hughes
Eleven year-old Norah Linton lives on an isolated cattle station in Northern Victoria in the early 1900s. Having never known her Mother, she lives with her Father, David, and elder brother, Jim.

After introducing Norah and her life, A Little Bush Maid tells the story of Jim’s return from his first term at boarding school in Melbourne. Jim brings along two mates, Wally Meadows and Harry Trevor, and the four youngsters enjoy the Easter holidays together.

The four children entertain themselves riding horses, going on picnics and running a menagerie race in the home paddock. They also cheerfully take care of their pets and various jobs around the station. All four, although the eldest is only fifteen, have a great sense of maturity and a desire to “do the right thing”; although they also have a certain naiveté compared to their twenty-first century contemporaries.

One morning, the foursome goes on a fishing expedition, accompanied by the aboriginal station hand, Billy. Billy is a pleasant character although somewhat patronized, as was the norm in those times; he is patronized, but at the same time, he is treated as human and respected by the family.

Norah gets bored of fishing and the boys’ talk, so she walks into the bush alone. Unexpectedly, she stumbles across a clearing where a man has set up camp. The man is equally surprised to see Norah, but is very polite and friendly to her. The Hermit, as Norah labels him, joins them for lunch and more fishing.

David has been called to Sydney before they return to the station and doesn’t return until after the boys return to school. The hermit isn’t mentioned again until Norah hears of an escaped criminal and wonders if the two are the same.

A few unexpected twists and the hermit’s identity is revealed at the end of the book.

This book was published nearly one hundred years ago, so it tells of a simpler time in rural Australia. Without being moralistic, it teaches children the virtues of hard work, helping others and treating others with respect and compassion. The adventures are no less exciting for lacking violence, bad language and sex, and the story shows one aspect of the Australian heritage in an easy to read format.

A Little Bush Maid is the first in a series of fifteen books about Norah and her family on their station, Billabong. The series was very popular with girls as they were printed, and has touched generations of Australians and others.

A Little Bush Maid,by Mary Grant Bruce
First Published in 1910 by Ward, Lock & Co
Current edition published by Harper Collins

About the Reviewer: Tash has always been an avid reader, which has lead her to running her own writing business. Melbourne born and bred Tash is proud to be an Australian and be Mum to two beautiful little girls. To learn more about Tash and her writing, visit Wordconstructions