Reviewed by Tash Hughes
A collection of twenty-two stories by Australian authors, this book forms part of our literary history. Some of the included authors are well known today, such as Alan Marshall, Henry Lawson and Henry Handel Richardson.
There is no common theme to the stories beyond their connection to an idealistic, simpler Australia. Each story is based around the people and places that formed many of the images Australians hold of themselves.
A few of the stories have been collected from publications such as The Bulletin and Meanjin, whilst others have been published in books.
Two stories are based on women, and two on children. The Drover’s Wife is a classic tale of the family left behind when men went droving whilst And Women Must Weep shows a young girl’s experience of her first ball. Watching animals in The Ant Lion and The Foal ends up teaching children lessons about life and respecting it.
There is humour in The Funerals of Malachi Mooney, mystery in A Golden Shanty, another world in The Jumping Jeweller of Lavender Bay and the puzzlement and danger of a drunk in The Lobster and the Lioness.
Kaijek The Songman(1941) shows the interrelationship between a white prospector and an aboriginal couple in the middle of nowhere. The story is largely told from the point of view of Kaijek and Ninyul as they happen upon the prospector’s camp. However, it is obviously written by a white man for the Bulletin market when there was little real sympathy or understanding of aboriginals.
An interesting collection that would enhance any understanding of the development of the Australian psyche.
Favourite Australian Stories, compiled by Colin Thiele