Wednesday, 25 July 2007


“The Long Farewell” has been very disappointing – not even a trenchcoat, gangster or private detective in sight. More seriously, it has a couple of strikes against it. The focus of the book is on English migration. I knew this before starting it, but its relentless focus is a little disheartening considering the many migrants from around the world who came to Australia’s shores in the nineteenth century. The book is also subtitled “Settlers under sail” which is a little misleading. Perhaps this disappointment is less the fault of the author than of my own expectations. I had hoped that the material would be generalisable to German migration and I had seen breathless endorsements of this book on genealogy pages and elsewhere.

It is also very much a book aimed at the general reader with a focus on description rather than critical analysis. I am not as comfortable with descriptive history as I am with other forms of historical writing, having had critical analysis drilled into my very bones. Again, this is a problem with me, rather than the author.

Finally, I can’t even find the book, which is a clear sign of my disappointment. I have about three or four locations for books that are currently in use – each side of the computer, beside the bed and beside the sofa. Whatever I’m in the midst of reading gets shifted around the house with me until it gets finished. Good books pile up beside the computer where I can reach them as I write. Dizzying towers are built and I am thinking of building a shelf over the computer so I can line up everything currently in use within easy reach. The book is in none of these places so my disappointment has clearly manifested itself in displacement.

A rigourous search turned up the book hiding on top of a bookshelf where books go only when they are not in use and library books should never venture (don’t tell the kids that I violated the house rules!). I am determined to overcome my prejudices and give it a second chance. Then, I am going to hunt down a couple of books that focus on German migration and also plan my trip to the John Oxley Library.

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