In this collection of seventeen short fictions, linked to the Black Tuesday bushfires in Tasmania on 8 February 1967, Ms Thompson explores many different themes. For those of you who weren’t around fifty years ago, this tragedy left 62 people dead and injured 900 others. More than 7000 people were left homeless and 1400 homes were destroyed. Most of the destruction was caused within a five-hour period. It was horrific. I was a school-aged child living in Launceston at the time, watching the local community mobilise to help those affected.
These fictions involve different people, with their different reactions to the fire and its aftermath. There’s one woman, in ‘Lost’, looking for the life she lost when the fire destroyed her home. In another, ‘The Keeper of the Satchel’, a man remembers the fire (and its impact) through his own regulated life. He wonders. In other stories, communities come together after the fire as differences that seemed important beforehand are erased. For the storytellers - danger, fear, loss and memories play a part as do empathy, humour and resilience.
This is a book to dip into. I will revisit these stories as a reminder of both the events of Black Tuesday (and other catastrophic bushfires) and the different ways in which such catastrophes continue to affect people long after the event.