Historical fiction is interesting but when it is also written in history (1929) it is challenging to engage with. Certainly, the richness of DH Lawrence is not evident and the excitement of modern authors such as Connelly is absent. The social and racial overtones are overt and moralise the story. This is to be expected considering when it was written but it does indicate the beginnings of some thoughts of atonement over the invasion by the English in the minds of some fair thinking whites. This is not a book that will leave you feeling contented and satisfied but depending on your racial stance you may feel challenged. As an aside, it is thought provoking to consider this world of vast distances and the absence of any communications beyond sporadic letters and husbands away a drovin’ for months. As a set text I suspect more insights will follow.
A tough, uncompromising novel about the difficult love between a white man and a black woman. Coonardoo is the moving story of a young Aboriginal woman trained from childhood to be the housekeeper at Wytaliba station and, as such, destined to look after its owner, Hugh Watt. The love between Coonardoo and Hugh, which so shocked its readers when the book was first published in 1929, is never acknowledged and so, degraded and twisted in on itself, destroys not only Coonardoo, but also a community which was once peaceful. This frank and daring novel set on the edge of the desert still raises difficult questions about the history of contact between black and white, and its representation in Australian writing.