Cecily's book reviews

In general I've written reviews of every book I've read since I joined GoodReads (RIP) in May 08, along with one or two I read prior to that. More recent reviews tend to be longer (sometimes a tad too long?). I always carry a book, though I don't get as much time as I'd like to get engrossed - life is busy, but in a good way. Too many of my favourite authors died without writing enough! Apart from reading, and writing about reading, I enjoy Scrabble, good restaurants, woodland, and attending the theatre.
Fortunate Life - A.B. Facey This is the autobiography of Bert Facey, born in Australia in 1894. His father died when he was two and shortly afterwards Bert and most of his siblings were abandoned by their mother. He was raised in agricultural poverty by his wonderful grandmother, but sent away to work aged 8, from which point he largely made his own way in the world, without ever attending school.

Over more than 70 years, he went from one job to another, all over the country, and apart from one employer (who beat him nearly to death) and his mother, almost everyone is very kind to him and almost everything he does he is fantastic at. And he does a lot of things: all sorts of agricultural labouring (arable and livestock); hunting; assistant cook for drovers; farm manager; building and repairing dams and wells; league footballer; boxer; laying rail road; soldier; tram conductor and driver; caretaker; trolleybus driver; trade union official; air raid warden; local councillor; JP and finally, author! It's all a little too good to be true, despite the indisputable hardship he endures much of the time.

There is plenty of pluck, but not much that's really dramatic or enthralling, unless you are interested in Australian social history of the period and especially how settlers established farms in the bush and how the government encouraged them etc.

The worst of it is the plodding way it is written: short simple sentences with plain words, so it's like an extended version of an early-reading primer: We did X. It was difficult. Then we did Y and were told we did it well. It was hard work, but we liked it and at least the food was good. I paraphrase, but only a little. Obviously it's a reflection of his lack of education, but I still found it irritating.

It's mostly very stilted and detached. There is little insight, imagination, description or anything to really engage the reader. He comments at one point on Mrs Stafford "seemed to understand people's feelings", but I'm not so sure he himself did.

Bert Facey was an admirable chap, but not a good writer - hardly surprising given his illiteracy till he taught himself to read. Yet this is the epitome of classic Australian writing, according to Aussie friends and colleagues!

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