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Today's quote:

Thursday, February 17, 2022

The Shiralee

Part 1 of the 1987 TV mini-series with Bryan Brown


There was a man who had a cross and his name was Macauley. He put Australia at his feet, he said, in the only way he knew how. His boots spun the dust from its roads and his body waded its streams. The black lines on the map, and the red, they knew him well. He built his fires in a thousand places and slept on the banks of rivers. The grass grew over his tracks, but he knew where they were when he came again." So begins the book "The Shiralee".
(To read the book online at archive.org, SIGN UP (it's FREE!), then LOG IN, and BORROW)

Probably no swagman, in life or in fiction, ever had such a strange companion on his wanderings as has Macaulay, the central character in D'Arcy Niland's first novel, who tramps through the back towns of New South Wales accompanied by his daughter Buster. Buster, four-year-old bundle of loyalty and fortitude, combines these more adult qualities with a natural childishness, and the result is a character creation of almost startling conviction. Buster is no joy to Macaulay, and he treats her with an uncompromising firmness; she must go on walking when she is nearly exhausted, must stop chattering when he wants to be quiet, must no complain. But Macauley has, too, a certain grudging affection for her, and this affection develops until it is so threatened by circumstances that it must at last be openly admitted.


Part 2 of the 1987 TV mini-series with Bryan Brown


In giving us Buster's story D'Arcy Niland takes us through country that he himself knew intimately: the small towns and their inhabitants - storekeepers, stock and station agents, pubkeepers, butchers, and so on - the stations, shearing-sheds, work-camps and jails, and the long, dusty roads. The minor characters such as Polka Dot, the pilosophic Desmond, and the drunken ex-fighter Beauty Kelly, contribute to the vividness of the Australian bush background and to the picaresque quality of the book. Written in vigorous and straight-forward prose, and combining uncompromising realism with compassion and understanding, "The Shiralee" is a powerful novel, and I've just found a 1955 first edition.

"The Shiralee" is so quintessentially Australian that it should be part of every Australian citizenship test. The only other question to ask would be, "Which film version is better, the original black-and-white 1957 release with Peter Finch, or the 1987 TV mini-series with Bryan Brown?" Print the citizenship certificate when you hear "Peter Finch" - click here.

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