Top critical review
Gives insights into Northern Territory cattle station life
6 September 2019
Yes, this book is a bit of a soapie but there are good things on offer. You come away with a better understanding of life on a huge, remote cattle station, especially from the point of view of the self-reliant women who work on them. I liked the lists of world events that start each year: 1979, 1980 etc. It addresses various themes that affect women: infertility, racial prejudice, emotional domestic violence, economic dependence. It’s also about living far out of accustomed comfort zones. Sybil is a Sydney nurse when she marries Joe from the Top End. Her son Ben marries English Kate. Della grew up on a ranch in Texas. Sybil’s longtime nursing friend Rita moves to Alice Springs to work with the Flying Doctor Service. There’s also the theme of alienation from one’s own child. Sybil and Joe’s first child Lachlan is portrayed as always being difficult (to put it mildly) before abandoning his family altogether. This is the least convincing part of the book, though undoubtedly, many families could tell a similar story. The structure of the book is like that of Sophie Green’s recent The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle, in which different chapters concentrate on each female character. One feature of Green’s writing which is particularly noticeable in this book is to describe her characters’ physical sensations as they experience emotions. It’s a way of showing not telling and is successful on the whole. So: a light but educational read about a challenging part of the world that not many people inhabit. Through the character of head stockman Stan reference is made to the fact that Aboriginal people were dispossessed of their traditional lands by white settlers. At this point in history we’re starting to get more of an indigenous take on this.