Such is Life: Being Certain Extracts from the Diary of Tom Collins. Joseph Furphy's title gives an indication of the complexity of the narrative that will unravel before a persistent reader. In chapter one, the narrator, Tom Collins, joins a group of bullockies to camp for the night a few miles from Runnymede Station. Their conversations reveal many of the issues that arise throughout the rest of the novel: the ownership of, or control of access to, pasture; ideas of providence, fate and superstition; and a concern for federation that flows into descriptions of the coming Australian in later chapters. Each of the characters provides a portrait of bush types that Furphy uses to measure the qualities of squatters and others against popular ideas of the 'gentleman'. Furphy's choice of a narrative structure to create a 'loosely federated' series of yarns is itself a critique of popular narratives populated by stock characters who are driven by action that leads to predictable and uncomplicated conclusions. Tom Collins, the unreliable narrator, adds further complications by claiming to 'read men like signboards' while all the time being unknowingly contradicted by circumstances that become obvious to the reader.
In each subsequent chapter Tom Collins leads the reader through a series of experiences chosen from his diaries. In chapter two, Collins meets the boundary rider Rory O'Halloran and his daughter, Mary, a symbol of the coming Australian whose devotion to her father will have tragic consequences in chapter five. There are many links between chapters like this one that remain invisible to Collins, despite his attempts to understand the 'controlling alternatives' that affect our lives. In chapter three Tom loses his clothes crossing the Murray River and spends the night wandering naked until he is able to steal a pair of pants after diverting attention by setting fire to a haystack. In chapter four Collins helps an ailing Warrigal Alf by deceiving several boundary riders who have impounded Alf's bullocks. In chapter five, among other yarns of lost children, Thompson completes the tragic tale of Mary O'Halloran, connecting with the events of chapter two. Chapters six and seven take Tom Collins back to Runnymede Station where he attempts to avoid an unwelcome union with Maud Beaudesart. He also meets the disfigured boundary rider, Nosey Alf, whose life story Furphy has threaded throughout the narrative, signs not perceived by Tom Collins. When Collins returns to Runnymede at the end of the novel, Furphy ties up more loose narrative threads, but Tom Collins, the narrator, remains oblivious to the end.
In short, Such Is Life 'reflects the preoccupations of [the 1890s]: contemporary capitalism, ardent Australian nationalism, the difficulties of pioneering pastoralism, and speculation about a future Australian civilization. It was instantly seen as a major example of the "radical nationalism" of the time and praised for its realistic representation of life on the frontier in the 1880s. But it was forty years before many readers realized that the novel was also a subtle comment on fiction itself and that within it were hidden stories that revealed a world of "romance" within its "realist" representation of life. Such Is Life can be read as the first experimental novel in Australian literature and the first Australian literary expression of a twentieth-century sensibility of the provisionality of life and reality.' (Julian Croft, 'Joseph Furphy.' in Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 230.)Hawthorn : Lloyd O'Neil , 1970
Dick Marston narrates the events of his and his brother Jim's association with notorious bushranger Captain Starlight.Hawthorn : Lloyd O'Neil , 1970
Arriving in Capricornia (a fictional name for the Northern Territory) in 1904 with his brother Oscar, Mark Shillingworth soon becomes part of the flotsam and jetsam of Port Zodiac (Darwin) society. Dismissed from the public service for drunkenness, Mark forms a brief relationship with an Aboriginal woman and fathers a son, whom he deserts and who acquires the name of Naw-Nim (no-name). After killing a Chinese shopkeeper, Norman disappears from view until the second half of the novel.
Oscar, the respectable contrast to Mark, marries and tries to establish himself on a Capricornian cattle station, Red Ochre, but is deserted by his wife and eventually returns for a time to Batman (Melbourne), accompanied by his daughter Marigold and foster son Norman, who has been sent to him after Mark's desertion.
Oscar rejects the plea of a former employee, Peter Differ, to see to the welfare of his daughter Constance; Constance Differ is placed under the 'protection' of Humboldt Lace, a Protector of Aborigines, who seduces her and then marries her off to another man of Aboriginal descent. Forced into prostitution, Constance is dying of consumption when discovered by a railway fitter, Tim O'Cannon, who will take care of Constance's daughter, Tocky, until his own death in a train accident.
Hearing news in 1928 of an economic boom in Capricornia, Oscar returns to his station, where he is joined by Marigold and Norman, who has grown to manhood believing himself to be the son of a Javanese princess and a solider killed in the First World War. Soon after, he discovers his mother was an Aboriginal woman, and meets his father, with whom he will not reconcile until later in the novel. Norman then goes on a series of journeys to discover his true, Aboriginal self. On the second of these journeys, he meets and wanders in the wilderness with Tocky, who has escaped from the mission station to which she was sent after the death of O'Cannon. During this passage, she kills a man in self-defense, which leads to Norman's being accused of murder, at the same time his father is prosecuted for the death of the Chinese shopkeeper. At the end of the novel they are both acquitted, Heather and Mark are married, and Norman returns to Red Ochre, where he finds the body of Tocky and their child in a water tank in which she had taken refuge from the authorities. (Source: Oxford Companion to Australian Literature)
'When Matthew Flinders, the first man to chart and circumnavigate Australia, set sail from England in July 1801, he left behind the intrigues of his homeland but also his young bride of only a few weeks, Ann Chappell. He didn't see her again for more than nine years. During that time he carried out incredible feats of seamanship and navigation, made the first charts of much of the coastline of Australia, and was shipwrecked and later held prisoner by the French on Mauritius.
'Meticulously researched and written with great insight and sensitivity, My Love Must Wait is both a tender portrayal of faithful devotion, and a stirring re-creation of the courage and endurance of one of history's greatest seamen. ' (Publication summary)Hawthorn : Lloyd O'Neil , 1971