To draw an accurate comparison between reading a novel and a short story I feel it’s helpful to imagine them both as portraits. A novel is an intricate painting, full of realism but perfectly presented, whereas a short story is far more like a candid snapshot that throws you into another place as quickly as it can with no ceremony. This has been my first collection of Australian short stories and I was taken aback by how well they presented the sheer differences in culture that Australia has, never mind the difference in history.
This collection has been selected by Kerry Goldsworthy who makes it very clear in her introduction that she does not want to merely use famous short stories that one could find in any anthology. This meant little to someone who had never read Australian shorts before but her selection covers a broad range of Australian experiences that I really feel adds depth to the overall collection. The first story doesn’t feature any Australians but instead a young English girl who is to be sent to the country, featuring her trepidations about the journey. Conversely, there is a story about a young Australian man trapped in England and another featuring an Australian couple holidaying in Venis. This along with stories that are completely ingrained in the country and wilderness of Australia means that there is a huge breadth of experience covered. The stolen generation is covered in the story “Flight”, my first encounter with literature on the topic, and it was a truly heart-wrenching read. Other stories worth mentioning were Alan Marshall’s “The Three Legged Bitch”, a touching story about an aged dingo trapper and “The Man Who Like Music”, which gave an interesting insight into the life of prisoners in Australia. A small issue I had with this collection was a difficulty in finding the historical context of each story. Some are set hundreds of years ago, others merely decades and there is no way to differentiate. A simple year of publication next to the authors name would have made this considerably simpler, rather than looking up the years they were alive and trying to estimate.
This collection is truly infused with the unique lifestyle that Australians have lead throughout the years and was an amazing read.