Guest Blogger Elaine Forrestal: The Story Behind Goldfields Girl

It’s my pleasure to welcome Elaine Forrestal here to Aussiereviews  to share the story behind her newest book, Goldfields Girl. Over to you Elaine. 

On the 9th December 1892 the first case of typhoid in Coolgardie was registered. The area around Bayley’s Reward Reef had just been declared a town and there were some 6000 men living in tents or camped under the stars. Food and water were still extremely scarce and there was no water to spare for maintaining good hygiene. To make matters worse, men from similar parts of the world tended to pitch their tents together in clusters. For example men from Western Australia could be found at the Sandgroper’s Camp, men from the USA at Montana. While this worked well in terms of company and security it was often disastrous for their health. If one man came down with typhoid or dysentery it quickly spread throughout the camp. And the nearest medical help of any sort was at least three days journey away. An early visitor to Coolgardie wrote to his friend in England: 

‘One half of Coolgardie is busy burying the other half. Bad water, harsh conditions and lack of proper attention causes deaths to occur daily.’

Sound familiar?

Like today, though, life was not all doom and gloom. Australians are known for their wry humour and the hardy prospectors were no exception. Evenings were spent in the pub where the bush ballads of Dryblower Murphy were recited, often by the author himself, who lived in the town. Then one of the men would strike up a tune on their mouthorgan or squeezebox and everyone would join in the singing of well known folk songs – some sad, some funny and some adapted, on the spot, into outrageous parodies. Peels of laughter rang out and lasting friendships developed. Naturally, after the long backbreaking days of digging in 40 degree heat, a lot of alcohol was consumed. ‘I’m doin’ yous all a favour. Savin’ on the drinkin’ water!’ would be the loud protest if the publican had to step in and evict someone. With water only arriving about once a week and costing 2/6d a gallon it, really was cheaper to drink Champagne.

Goldfields Girl by Elaine Forrestal, tells the story or 14yr old Clara Saunders who arrived in Coolgardie with the first gold rush and survived to tell the tale.

In bookshops now and available from Fremantle Press.


Thanks for dropping by Elaine!

The Figures on the Lake, by Peter O’Shaughnessy

What are these ghostly figures?
Stark, angular and bright
against the salt lake’s crystal surface
they disturb its blinding light…

Since 2003, a remote salt lake near Wiluna, in Western Australia, has hosted a set of sculptures installed, as part of the Perth Arts Festival’s 5oth anniversary, by internationally renowned artist Antony (now Sir Antony) Gormley. based on the townsepople, the figures dot the crystal white sal lake and attract visitors from around the world, drawn to this remote part of the country to view and talk about art.

The Figures on the Lake a selection of poems, sketches and paintings recording and responding to the beauty of the figures. Artist and poet Peter O’Shaughnessy has visited the sculptures many times, and, following the success of an exhibitions of paintings interpreting the sculptures, was moved to produce a book honouring the sculptures and their story.

The idea of a series of art and poetry inspired by another series of artworks is a wonderful one, and the book is a delight to browse. Proceeds from sales of the book help to support cancer charities.

Available from the author, in Bunbury Western Australia, or through the Wilunatic Press Etsy Store.

The Figures on the Lake, by Peter O’Shaughnessy
Wilunatic Press, 2017
ISBN 9780648055914

Bloodlines, by Nicole Sinclair

‘It’s running, Clem,’ she says. ‘And I’m not running.’
‘It’s not running, it’s smart. It’s giving you time. And Sam…’ He sees her wince and then, quietly: ‘It gives Sam some space too. And time. God, the bloke must be shattered.’
She stiffens.
Maybe she’ll cry, he thinks. He could reach for her then, sit by her, draw her onto his lap., this broken girl of his, and cradle her like he did when she was a child.

Beth is thirty-one years old and trying leave her past behind. A terrible break up has seen her flee to the family farm in wheatbelt Western Australia but her wise dad, Clem, thinks she needs to go further away: to Papua New Guinea. Despite her reservations, Beth soon finds herself living on a remote island, working alongside her aunt at the school she runs. As she adjusts to life in a different land, amidst a very different culture, she also reflects on the events which have brought her here.

Running alongside Beth’s story is the story of her mother, Rose, who met and fell in love with Clem when she moved to Western Australia but who died when Beth was a child. Clem’s story, both before and since, is also gradually revealed.

Bloodlines is an amazing debut novel, deftly weaving the entwined stories of Beth and her mother, in settings as vivid as they are disparate. Beth’s life has been filled with love, but also with sadness, and her need to make sense of it takes her to a strange, welcoming but unfamiliar land. Sinclair’s love of both Papua New Guinea and of Western Australia shows through in her vivid recreation of the two settings, and her characters fill the pages with their big, complex personalities.

Shortlisted for the prestigious TAG Hungerford Award in 2014, Bloodlines is a heart-filled book which questions the meanings of home and belonging in a way that will leave readers thinking long after the final page.

Bloodlines, by Nicole Sinclair
Margaret River Press, 2017
ISBN 9780994316875

Saving Jazz, by Kate McCaffrey

My name is Jasmine Lovely, Jazz usually (unless I’m in trouble), and I’m a rapist. In fact, I’m guilty of more than just rape but, as my lawyer says, in the interests of judicial fairness, we can’t be prejudicial. It’s hard enough to admit rape. As a girl, people look at you exceptionally hard. People look at you blankly. Not that it’s something I admit to often, like I just did to you.

Jazz has a pretty good life: she’s pretty, popular and smart. She lives in the small town of Greenhead, a seemingly idyllic settlement north of Perth. Like the other teenagers, she likes to party, to drink and to use social media. But when those three things all spin out of control one fateful night, the consequences are terrible – for Jazz, for her best friends Annie and Jack, and for the whole community of Greenhead.

Saving Jazz is a gritty, chilling story of cyber bullying and the use of social media, following the story of what can happen when these two get out of control. With the viewpoint character, Jazz, telling her story through a blog, we are given the insight of someone who has been both bystander and perpetrator, with the book being told after the major event, looking back, but then progressing to beyond the time when the blog is started, with 43 ‘posts’ spanning several years.

McCaffrey is known for broaching difficult topics, and Saving Jazz is no exception. AT the same time, though, the story has plenty of warm moments, offering hope both for the characters and for the reader.

An outstanding young adult read.

Saving Jazz, by Kate McCaffrey
Fremantle Press, 2016
ISBN 9781925163582

Sister Heart, by Sally Morgan

I am lost
in my saltwater tears.

Snatched from home by a policeman, and sent south on a terrifying ship voyage, Annie finds herself trapped in an institution with other stolen children. She longs for her home up North, with her mum, her baby sister, and her extended family. Instead, she has rules, and strange surroundings, a teacher who yells and punishes and even a new name. The only light comes from her new friend, Janey, who treats her like a sister and helps her learn how to survive. But even their friendship can’t ensure they will be happy.

Sister Heart is a brilliant, beautiful verse novel which uses the poetic narrative to explore the issues of the stolen generation in a form which makes them accessible to young readers. Annie speaks directly to the reader with heart breaking honesty. The immediacy and intimacy of this first person voice will draw readers of all ages into the story.

From the author of My Place and many other books for children, Sister Heart is an important, moving book.

Sister Heart, by Sally Morgan
Fremantle Press, 2015
ISBN 9781925163131

Available from good bookstores and online.

Small Bamboo, by Tracy Vo

I was on a plane from Sydney to Perth to see my parents, but it was much more than just a flight west. It would eventually take me back more than thirty years, all the way back to Vietnam, back to a time when my parents were young and brave and desperate.
Desperate enough to get on a leaky boat.

In 2012 a break from her Sydney-based media career to visit her parents made Tracy Vo realise how homesick she was. It was time to move home to Perth. Ultimately, this decision took her much further, on a journey of discovery into her parents’ past. Thirty four years earlier, they had fled post-war Vietnam in a leaky boat, making a new life in Australia, where Tracy and her b=older brother Trevor were born and grew up.

Small Bamboo is a captivating account of the Vo family’s life in Vietnam prior to and during the Vietnam war, their subsequent escape and journey to Australia, and their lives adapting to this new country. Vo also shares her own experiences as the child of refugee parents, and charts her career to date as a television and radio journalist.

Readers will be entertained and intrigued by this glimpse into one family’s lives, and also witness to the way that hard work and determination can overcome adversity and lead to success.


Small Bamboo, by Tracy Vo
Allen & Unwin, 2014
ISBN 9781743316153

Available from good bookstores or online.

Meet My Book: Marble Bar, by Robert Schofield

It’s always nice to welcome an author to chat in the Meet My Book feature. Today we welcome Robert Schofield – here on the release day of his new book, which makes his visit extra special. Welcome Robert!Robert Schofield (2)

1. Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.

Title: Marble Bar
ISBN: 9781743316849
Publication Date: June 26 2014
Publisher: Allen & Unwin

2. Why did you write the book?

Marble Bar is the sequel to my first novel: Heist. It was part of a two-book deal with my publishers, who were adamant that they wanted a sequel, set in Western Australia, with the same protagonists. Who was I to argue?

3. How long from idea to publication?

When I was negotiating the two-book contract, my publisher asked how long I had taken to write my first book. Wanting to sound nonchalant, I told them I had knocked it out in 18 months. This was a mistake, because it was a loaded question. They then assumed that I could write the second one in the same period, and wrote a delivery date into the contract. I’d never written to a deadline before, and it was difficult with that weight on my shoulders, but I delivered. It was another six months between delivering the manuscript and publication, so two years in total.


4. What was the hardest thing about writing it?

It was the Difficult Second Novel. As well as the deadline hanging over me, I had to prove that the first novel was not a fluke. If you’ve poured everything into your first novel, what can be left for the second? It’s only natural that on the second visit to the well, you might find that it’s gone dry. This of course is why publishers offer two-book deals. They understand that it is the second book that separates the professional from the dilettante.

5. Coolest thing about your book?

My book isn’t cool, it’s smoking hot. It’s set in the hottest town in Australia, and the cover says ‘Welcome to Hell’. With my first book, I had no input into the choice of title and the design of the cover, but with Marble Bar my publisher kept my title and used my photographs on the cover, so I guess that’s pretty cool.

6. Something you learnt through writing the book?

I wrote my first book in complete freedom, with no expectation of publication. It was just something to keep a restless mind occupied. The second one had a whole lot more riding on it, and I had to learn a different approach. It taught me discipline.

7. What will you do to celebrate the release?

We will be celebrating the publication at Planet Books, Beaufort Street, Mount Lawley on Friday 27th June from 7:00pm.
My friends Malcolm Dix and Sean Gorman will be officiating and entertaining.

8. And how will you promote the book?

Promotion of the book is in the hands of the lovely Lara, who is my publicist at Allen & Unwin. She will present me with a list of media interviews after the launch.

I have a series of events planned at libraries around Perth, generously supported by Dymocks Bookshops:

Gosnells Knowledge Centre: Sat July 5th 10:30am

Fremantle Library: Thurs July 10th 6:30pm

Karrinyup Library: Weds July 16th 6:30pm

9. What are you working on next?

I’m currently working on a sequel, the final part of the trilogy, which I am doing as part of a Doctorate in Creative Writing at Curtin University. As if I hadn’t got enough on my plate working full time and wrangling three kids, I thought I’d set myself another challenge.

10. Where we can find out more about you and your book?

My website is:

My publisher’s site is:

Thanks for dropping in Robert – and congratulations on the book!

Cicada, by Moira McKinnon

She brushed her lips against the baby’s forehead and she saw his eyes fix on hers.
‘I am here.’ She touched his shoulders, his chest and felt his heartbeat against the tips of her fingers.
It was then that her husband’s hand smashed hard and cold against her face. The child fell from her arms. She reached for him, but the room went dark and she was falling, and all she could see were William’s eyes burning and yellow.

On a remote Kimberley station, Lady Emily Lidscombe gives birth to her first child, a child she hopes will provide an heir and perhaps breathe life into her ailing marriage. But the baby, when it is born, is not her husband’s: he has ‘skin the colour of dark mallee honey’, the result of a brief liaison with an Aboriginal stockman. The birth sets of a violent and disturbing chain of events and soon Emily is on the run with her maid, Wirritjil, across the stark but beautiful landscape as they avoid capture and retribution for crimes real and imagined.

Cicada is a breathtaking tale of two disparate women who form a deep connection amidst horrible circumstances in a landscape which is as foreign to one as it is will be to most readers. This landscape is key to the story – it is a much a story of place as it is of violence, displacement and friendship. It is isn’t an easy read but it is compelling and utterly beautiful.


Cicada, by Moira McKinnon
Allen & Unwin, 2014
ISBN 9781743315293

Available from good bookstores or online.

The Amazing Spencer Gray, by Deb Fitzpatrick

Sitting at the edge of the oval at lunchtime, Spencer chewed his ham and cheese sandwich while Leon slapped his thigh in excitement.
‘Spence, you utter, utter—-‘ Leon shook his head, unable to finish.
‘I know,’ Spencer nodded, head down, trying not to smile at them too gleefully. ‘Cool, hey.’
‘You’ve got the wickedest dad,’ Charlie said.

Spencer’s mates are pretty impressed when Spencer goes his chance to go up in his dad’s glider, but no one is more excited than Spencer himself. His dad loves flying, and Spencer has been hanging out for years to go up with him. When he finally gets his chance, he finds the experience just as wonderful as he thought it would be. Until the day that they fly into a storm, and Spencer has to use all his reserves of courage to survive.

The Amazing Spencer Gray is a an exciting story of survival, as well as of family and friendship. Spencer and his family have experienced lots of changes, and, like any family, have disagreements and ups and downs. Young readers will enjoy the adventure and the novelty of the gilder scenes. Also attractive is the West Australian setting, with the landscape around Bluff Knoll a feature.

Suitable for primary aged readers, The Amazing Spencer Gray is amazing.

The Amazing Spencer Gray

The Amazing Spencer Gray, by Deb Fitzpatrick
Fremantle Press, 2013
ISBN 9781922089328

Available from good bookstores and online.

Shallow Breath, by Sara Foster

The question begins to circle her as she hangs in the freezing dark water. The surface is only a few metres above, and she kicks her fins hard. Nothing happens. She is still trapped. Alone.

Desi Priest is coming home – but it’s not a joy filled homecoming. Two years ago she made a terrible mistake which shattered the lives of her family and that of her best friend, Rebecca. Some people are happy to see her – especially her good friend, Pete, who has been there for her for years. Others, like her daughter Maya have mixed feelings. It’s hard to forgive a mother who ahs missed so man important milestones. And others Desi is sure will not be happy to see her.

One person, though, Desi doesn’t expect to be waiting for her. There is a woman she has never met who shares a bond with Desi and with Maya. She has come seeking Desi’s help. If Desi helps her, she is risking her life and her already fragile future. If she doesn’t she may be turning her back on her beliefs, and placing Maya at risk. As she struggles with both her past and the present, Desi and her family come to grips with what has happened and face some uncomfortable truths.

Shallow Breath could easily have been an overcomplicated novel – there are seven or eight viewpoint characters, settings in five continents, and a slew of issues being addressed. But Foster draws them all together beautifully, and the switches are part of the layering of understanding which takes the reader on a journey towards understanding what has gone on and what is happening now. Several of the ke characters are animal lovers, keen to rescue or help animals including dolphins, whale sharks, elephants and kangaroos, and this is linked too to issues of domestic abuse and violence, ensuring that the various subplots link. Foster also has a keen sense of place, and West Australian readers will love the setting of Yanchep and Atlantis Marine Park both during its years of operation and now, abandoned as it is.

Shallow Breath invites breathless anticipation, building towards a shocking climax. It is a really satisfying read.

Shallow Breath

Shallow Breath, by Sara Foster
Bantam, 2013
ISBN 9781742753997

Available from good bookstores and online.