'Miles Franklin wrote Childhood at Brindabella, an autobiography, in 1952-53, but it wasn't published until after her death in 1954. It is a story of an idyllic time, spent in the hills of Brindabella near present-day Canberra, and full of sunshine, sweet ripe fruit and interesting relations. This is a timely new edition of a significant work by one of Australia's best-loved authors. Miles Franklin (1879-1954) spent her first ten years at Brindabella, near Canberra, before the family moved to a property near Goulburn, the setting for her autobiographical novel, My Brilliant Career. Miles Franklin was a feminist and a socialist, working in America with Alice Henry in the National Women's Trade Union League.'
Source: Publisher's blurb (2003 ed.).
'Nature writing has never been more popular. In recent years it has become an international publishing phenomenon, with titles such as Helen Macdonald's 'H is for Hawk' (Jonathan Cape, 2014), Robert Macfarlane's 'Landmarks' (Hamish Hamilton, 2015), Amy Liptrot's 'The Outrun' (Canongate, 2016) and Sy Montgomery's 'How to be a Good Creature' (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018) scoring significant worldwide success. Australia, too, has its own rich history of nature writing. For more than a century, nature writing was 'the' primary literature for writing the country; a vital part of the ongoing process, for settler-Australians, of coming to feel at home in what were initially unfamiliar environments, and of creating a sense of national identity around them. Yet, today, nature writing is not widely known or understood here, and it's apparent that more Australians have read 'H is for Hawk' (18,000 copies sold so far according to Bookscan) than any of our own contemporary works.' (Publication abstract)
'A long time ago, after the publicity had finished for my first memoir When It Rains and while I was still brimming with writing confidence and no real direction I dreamed what my next book was to be. Woken by a willie wagtail calling outside my window I reached for the notebook on the bedside table. With eyes still sticky with sleep I scrawled down the details of the extraordinary walk I had just taken with Miles Franklin.' (Introduction)
'As a South Australian by birth and an early enthusiast for urban history, I was not deeply impressed by Russel Ward in my youth. However, that was a long time ago. Since then I have come to appreciate The Australian Legend (1958) and to feel that it could be better understood. No doubt my own work on Miles Franklin, and my days on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula, some of which I will be referring to shortly, has had good deal to do with it; but so too has an increasing awareness of the challenges now facing rural and regional Australia. In what follows, I start with the young Russel Ward and what led him to focus on the pastoral frontier of eastern Australia. Next comes a consideration of the Legend's relevance to two very different regions, the Brindabella area in the southern mountains of New South Wales, and Eyre Peninsula, the western most peninsula of South Australia, both of which as it happens were first colonised by Europeans in the 1840s. Lastly, by way of conclusion, I offer some observations on the changing face of 'the frontier' since the 1950s, drawing on my own experience. That may sound rather presumptuous. But it is more or less in line with the task that Ward set for us in the final paragraph of his book, which reads in full: It is generally agreed that without a distinctive national tradition a people lacks cohesion, balance, and confidence. It is usually assumed that in a young country like ours, inherited attitudes exert less influence than in old one. The truth maybe that, because of its relative youth, our tradition is at once too dominating and too rigid, and that we tend compulsively to worship it as, so to speak, a fair though sacred cow. But nothing could be more thoroughly within the tradition than 'to give it a go' - to venture boldly on new courses of action, and so modify, and even create, traditions as the anonymous bushmen, and, later, the men of the 'nineties did. Today's task might well be to develop those features of the Australian tradition which still seem valid in modern conditions.' (Introduction)