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Home (Black Australian Writing)

de Larissa Behrendt

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A story of homecoming, this engrossing novel opens with a young, city-based lawyer setting out on her first visit to ancestral country. Candice arrives at 'the place where the rivers meet', the camp of the Eualeyai where in 1918 her grandmother Garibooli was abducted. As Garibooli takes up the story of Candice's Aboriginal family, the twentieth century falls away. Garibooli, now renamed Elizabeth, is sent to work as a housemaid, but marriage soon offers escape from the terror of the master's night-time visits. Her displacement carries into the lives of her seven children -- their stories witness to the impact of orphanage life and the consequences of having dark skin in post-war Australia. Vividly rekindled, the lives of her family point the direction home for Candice. Homeis a powerful first novel from an award-winning author who understands the power of stories to bridge past and present.… (mais)
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Home (2004) is the debut novel of Larissa Behrendt of the Eualeyai/Kamilaroi people. A lawyer and an Aboriginal activist, Behrendt went on to write the novel Legacy (2009, see my review) and also Finding Eliza, Power and Colonial Storytelling (2016, see my review). Home won the David Unaipon Award as an unpublished manuscript in 2002 and the Commonwealth Writers Prize, South East Asia and South Pacific Region, Best First Book, 2005. It tells an important story… but I think it needed tighter editing at UQP to bring the narrative into shape. It reads a bit like a sprawling and sometimes unconvincing family saga that strays here and there into heavy-handed historical and legal backgrounding, and these flaws detract from the significant issues raised by the novel.

Like many debut novels, Home appears to have autobiographical elements. The story is bookended by the story of Candice, who, like the author, is a successful, well-travelled lawyer working in indigenous land rights issues. Like the author, the characters have German and Indigenous ancestry, and so they have skin which varies in colour from light to dark, raising questions of identity and racism. Some of them can ‘pass for white’ and until their Aboriginality is revealed they are treated with friendship and respect because they are thought to be Mediterranean or exotic. But their ‘whiteness’ means that they also suffer crudely racist commentary because their companions do not expect that an Indigenous person could be among them. For these characters there is always the dilemma and invidious choice about how and who to be. (During and after WW1 and WW2, some of the characters also suffer anti-German prejudice, but this is one of a number of side issues in the novel).

At the start of the novel Candice is making her first trip ‘home’ to her country, a situation that has arisen because her father did not know about his Aboriginality until well into adulthood. As the middle sections of the book reveal, the story of this fragmented family begins with Garibooli in 1918, when she is abducted from her family by the authorities and placed directly into domestic service in Parkes NSW, in the dysfunctional home of Lydia and Edward Howard whose marriage is a farce. Garibooli is renamed Elizabeth and works eleven hour days unpaid under the direction of their housekeeper Frances Grainger, one of the generation of women bereft by the war.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2017/07/10/home-by-larissa-behrendt/ ( )
  anzlitlovers | Jul 11, 2017 |
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My father told me that the name of the town meant 'the meeting of the rivers' in the old language.
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A story of homecoming, this engrossing novel opens with a young, city-based lawyer setting out on her first visit to ancestral country. Candice arrives at 'the place where the rivers meet', the camp of the Eualeyai where in 1918 her grandmother Garibooli was abducted. As Garibooli takes up the story of Candice's Aboriginal family, the twentieth century falls away. Garibooli, now renamed Elizabeth, is sent to work as a housemaid, but marriage soon offers escape from the terror of the master's night-time visits. Her displacement carries into the lives of her seven children -- their stories witness to the impact of orphanage life and the consequences of having dark skin in post-war Australia. Vividly rekindled, the lives of her family point the direction home for Candice. Homeis a powerful first novel from an award-winning author who understands the power of stories to bridge past and present.

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