‘Fishing in the Styx’ by Ruth Park

I chose to read this book this week because of Wad Holloway’s Australian Women Writers Gen 3 Week. I picked the book up a couple of years ago in a charity shop, having read several of Ruth Park’s books over the years, including her first autobiography – ‘A Fence Around the Cuckoo’. I really enjoyed this second volume of her life, which included graphic descriptions of Ruth’s life with her husband D’Arcy Niland, whose works I have also enjoyed. Their relationship was obviously strong despite many stresses including years of poverty, but Ruth used her experiences of this life to describe the lives of the people around her in the slums of Sydney, as well as in outback Australia, and she did this very effectively, giving us all an insight not only into the difficulties facing disadvantaged people, but also the humanity of those people. This book was written towards the end of Ruth’s life, after the death of D’Arcy, which was clearly devastating for her. The other fascinating aspect of the book was the insight into the difficulties faced by independent/freelance writers, and the cavalier treatment of them by canny publishers/film executives. Overall a great read.

My other option for this week was Tiburon, by Kylie Tennant, but I will be reading that later in the year. This was a copy I picked out from my uncle’s bookshelf after he died in 2018 – I think it is a first edition. I know it was originally published in serial form in the Bulletin, but my version is a hardback published in 1935, and still has the original (damaged) dustjacket. Interestingly, it also has a message inside from my Grandfather to “Will”, dated Christmas Day 1935. Perhaps it never made its way to Will, or was returned somehow. A mystery.

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