This anthology takes the reader down a new track through Australian history. Stamina and endurance, qualities required by those who were part of early Australia, are not required as each story is engaging in content and no more than 1800 words in length.
Along with stories exploring early Australia are stories of events as recent as 2004 (Dianne Bates’ 'Badu Boys Rule').
'Marngrook' by Sean Quentin Lee, the winning story, throws some light on early influences in a game that most Australians seem to be obsessed with – Aussie Rules football. Football is not my thing but from this story I learned about Tom Wills, a significant historical figure in Australian Football and was able to impress some football-mad friends by making reference to Wills and Marngrook.
Another story that caught my attention was 'Footsteps in the Dark' by Elsie Johnstone which is set in Albert Park where I live. However, I did not need the geographical connection to be engaged in this story. I was drawn back into time effortlessly by the author’s crisp and captivating writing style. My curiosity was quickly aroused by the mention of murder in the first few lines. A recount of the murder of a young girl alerts the reader to the possibility that the story’s protagonist might be the next victim. Thereafter, I followed every word, expecting the murderer to strike at any moment.
Harold Mally’s 'Act of Defiance' offers an insight into the character of Sir John Franklin as well as that of his wife, Lady Jane Franklin. Mally’s skilful use of humour engages the reader and highlights eccentricities in the penal colony of Van Diemen’s Land. I love the last line. It is a shame I cannot quote it here but that would spoil the story for you.
Anne Atkinson in 'Donald Charles at Ziza' introduced me to an Australian military leader I was not aware of; a soldier who was man enough to show respect to the enemy. Respect can generate improbable outcomes.
JB Rowley: author of The Woman at the Back of the Room.
(reviewed 6 days after purchase)