Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Road From Coorain

The Road from Coorain

Jill Ker Conway

Date: 11 August, 1990   —   $9.00   —   Book

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Nonfiction, Memoir

Jill Ker grew up in the lonliest style imaginable, sheep farming in grassland Australia. When her father dies near the end of a years-long killing drought, her family moves to Sydney and she begins her education, a path that will lead her to trying to fathom the cultural and educational shackles placed on colonial mindsets. That path takes her to England and Canada and America, allowing her to contrast the experiences of different English-speaking lands.

This book provides an amazing amount of perspective for a short volume. Ker Conway's lyrical descriptions of the landscape provide a vivid backdrop for the revelations she experiences, including the fact that the Australia of her time was severely hampered by an inferiority complex and by trying to live up to British ideals, while the English knew that they could use Australia as political capital with little negative impact at home— not to mention the entrenched racism. She notes how the Puritan ideals of New England hampered the natural enjoyment of life that college students at Harvard deserved, and how Canadian students suffered from a need to differentiate themselves from the powerful country to the south.

Most of all, she is shocked by the barriers she has to overcome as a woman; as she says, she had been unconsciously assuming the male role in her internal story. This leads her to an interest in the female role in history, and into prominence in her field (academia) as a pioneering woman.

She writes with a clear-eyed interest that engages the reader, and while she definitely has her low points, her conclusions are well worth examining.

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