If I could read only one book it would undoubtedly be James Joyce’s Ulysses, because it’s the best. On the other hand, if I had to name a favourite book, I would be torn between the sly wit (and happy ending) of Pride and Prejudice and Eve Langley’s The Pea Pickers with its poetic evocation of the Australian bush and Steve’s heartbreaking struggle to reconcile her femininity with her need for independence.
But, what I actually set out to write was a list, If I Could Read Only One (Australian) Book from each year of the first half of the C20th. So here goes.
1901 Miles Franklin, My Brilliant Career* (discussed here)
1902 Barbara Baynton, Bush Studies* (review)
1903 Joseph Furphy, Such is Life* (discussed here)
1904 Steele Rudd, Sandy’s Selection* (author biography)
1905 Joseph Furphy, Rigby’s Romance*
1906 a lean year and we have to choose between Catherine Martin, The Old Roof-Tree; AB Paterson, An Outback Marriage; and Rosa Praed, The Lost Earl of Ellan
1908 Henry Handel Richardson, Maurice Guest*. There’s also Mrs Gunn’s We of the Never Never* which I loathe.
1909 Miles Franklin, Some Everyday Folk and Dawn – another lean year! (review)
1910 Henry Handel Richardson, The Getting of Wisdom*. Also Catherine Helen Spence: An Autobiography, which I would love to get hold of.
1911 Louis Stone, Jonah*
1912 Norman Lindsay, Norman Lindsay’s Book No.1
1913 Norman Lindsay, A Curate in Bohemia; or KS Prichard, Clovelly Verses
1914 an even leaner year in a lean decade. Try Ruth Bedford & Dorothea Mackellar, Two’s Company; or maybe Nettie Palmer, The South Wind (verse)
1915 CJ Dennis, The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke*; KS Prichard, The Pioneers (review)
1916 Sumner Locke, Samaritan Mary
1917 Henry Handel Richardson, Australia Felix*
1918 a good year for kids! Norman Lindsay, The Magic Pudding*; May Gibbs, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie*
1919 Beatrice Grimshaw, The Coral Queen. Grimshaw (1879-1953) was a university educated, widely travelled journalist, an explicitly anti-feminist feminist, a plantation manager in New Guinea, and a best-selling author favourably compared with RL Stevenson and Joseph Conrad.
1920 AH Adams, The Australians; though I’d probably rather read Lionel Lindsay on Conrad Martens and The Art of Hans Heysen.
1921 KS Prichard, Black Opal; but also CEW Bean, the first two volumes of the Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918*; and Mary Fullerton, Bark House Days (discussed here).
1922 Vance Palmer, The Boss of Killara (I suppose I had to include one Vance Palmer)
1923 DH Lawrence, Kangaroo*
1924 DH Lawrence & Mollie Skinner, The Boy in the Bush* (review)
1925 Henry Handel Richardson, The Way Home*
1926 Martin Boyd, Brangane (supposedly based on Barbara Baynton – author autobiography); but also KS Prichard, Working Bullocks*; and Steele Rudd, The Miserable Clerk (not ‘Dad and Dave’ at all, but stories from his years in the Qld public service).
1927 then you get a year with nothing! At your own peril try something from the ‘prolific and sentimental’ Marie Bjelke-Petersen, The Moon Minstrel. (She won the King’s Jubilee medal for literature in 1935).
1929 M Barnard Eldershaw, A House is Built*; KS Prichard, Coonardoo*; Henry Handel Richardson, Ultima Thule*; James Tucker, Ralph Rashleigh* (review); Arthur Upfield, The Barakee Mystery (the first Napoleon Bonaparte detective novel). How do you choose!
1930 Miles Franklin, Ten Creeks Run* (review); but also HM Green, An Outline of Australian Literature* or KS Prichard, Haxby’s Circus (which I don’t like). Also, the HHR trilogy, Australia Felix, Ultima Thule, The Way Home, was published as The Fortunes of Richard Mahony*.
1931 Frank Dalby Davidson, Man Shy*; Mile Franklin, Old Blastus of Bandicoot* (review); and two interesting ‘lives’ – Henry Lawson by Bertha Lawson and (Mitchell Librarian) John Brereton (review); and Henry Bourne Higgins by Nettie Palmer.
1932 Ion Idriess, Flynn of the Inland*; or maybe KS Prichard, Kiss on the Lips (short stories). I’m guessing Leonard Mann’s Flesh in Armour is the best of the few novels on offer, or maybe Vance Palmer, Daybreak.
1933 Norman Lindsay, Saturdee; Frank Clune, Try Anything Once*
1934 Christina Stead, The Salzburg Tales (review) and Seven Poor Men of Sydney* (author biography); Henry Handel Richardson, The End of Childhood* (review). Though you would have to be tempted by Mary Mitchell, A Warning to Wantons.
1935 Kylie Tennant, Tiburon*
1937 Ernestine Hill, The Great Australian Loneliness* (author biography); also Eleanor Dark, Sun Across the Sky and KS Prichard, Intimate Strangers, neither of which I know.
1939 Henry Handel Richardson, The Young Cosima* (review). Some people may attach some importance to Patrick White’s first, Happy Valley.
1940 Christina Stead, The Man Who Loved Children*
1941 Eleanor Dark, The Timeless Land*; but also Ernestine Hill, My Love Must Wait*; Ion Idriess, Nemarluck* (review); Kylie Tennant, The Battlers; and Patrick White, The Living and the Dead.
1942 Eve Langley, The Pea Pickers* (review)
1943 Kylie Tennant, Ride On Stranger* (review); but maybe also Majorie Barnard, The Persimmon Tree
1944 Christina Stead, For Love Alone*; Stead dominates the second half of this list but I’m planning a review of Kate Baker & Miles Franklin, Joseph Furphy* (review); and would love to have Alice Henry (ed. Nettie Palmer), Memoirs.
1945 Norman Lindsay, The Cousin from Fiji*
1947 M Barnard Eldershaw, Tomorrow and Tomorrow
1948 Patrick White, The Aunt’s Story*
1949 Ruth Park, Poor Man’s Orange*
1950 Nevil Shute, A Town Like Alice*; another thin year but there’s also KS Prichard, Winged Seeds*(3rd of the Goldfields trilogy) and Nettie Palmer, Henry Handel Richardson which Lisa of ANZLL reviewed (here) and which I am currently borrowing – I used it in my review of The Young Cosima above. And if you’re as old as I am, there’s Gwen Meredith, Blue Hills* from which was derived the famous, interminable ABC radio serial of the same name.
By my count there are 98 books listed above (or an even 100 including Ulysses and P&P). Of these I have read just fewer than half; there are 5 or 6 which I own and haven’t got to yet; and when I pack up my father’s books later this month I’ll get my grandfather’s multi volume Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918 which I may never read.
Joy Hooton and Harry Heseltine, Annals of Australian Literature, 2nd Ed., OUP, Melbourne, 1992
Wilde, Hooton, Andrews, The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature, 2nd Ed., OUP, Melbourne, 1994
* The books I already own, I think! I’ve just discovered I have a copy of Jungfrau.