The Shiralee by D’Arcy Niland


Another book recommended by Reading Matters.  This is the story of Macauley, a nomadic farm worker who travels often on foot with his 4 year old daughter named Buster.  Early on, an old man explains to Macauley, "Some men are like a wheel.  They were made to go around.  They rust if they lie still, and they fall apart.  Some men, they can live in a box, but you're not one of them."  The language is wonderful, spare and tough, but expressive.  I was amazed to find myself reading the details of a violent fight with great interest. 

The setting is northern New South Wales and as Macauley moves from village to village, I could follow his progress on the map.  It's hard to figure the time period of this book; there are some cars, but a horse and sulky are not out of place.  And of course, a man could wander about the countryside with a child, so social services are not in place.

Macauley takes Buster from his wife to spite her when he discovers her in bed with a man, not too surprising a turn of events as he is rolling around the countryside most of the time.  Buster, it turns out, is a wonderfully tough little character who wins his heart.  While there are some very bad actors that we encounter in the book, we essentially come to know this tightly, well maybe loosely, knit community of folks who shear sheep, feed work crews, and hire these itinerant workers.  They are tough, often wildly eccentric folks with a flare for interesting language.

Add comment



Recent Posts


Blogs I Like