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The Road from Coorain (1989)

de Jill Ker Conway

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1,806339,647 (3.89)90
In a memoir that pierces and delights us, Jill Ker Conway tells the story of her astonishing journey into adulthood--a journey that would ultimately span immense distances and encompass worlds, ideas, and ways of life that seem a century apart. She was seven before she ever saw another girl child. At eight, still too small to mount her horse unaided, she was galloping miles, alone, across Coorain, her parents' thirty thousand windswept, drought-haunted acres in the Australian outback, doing a "man's job" of helping herd the sheep because World War II had taken away the able-bodied men. She loved (and makes us see and feel) the vast unpeopled landscape, beautiful and hostile, whose uncertain weathers tormented the sheep ranchers with conflicting promises of riches and inescapable disaster. She adored (and makes us know) her large-visioned father and her strong, radiant mother, who had gone willingly with him into a pioneering life of loneliness and bone-breaking toil, who seemed miraculously to succeed in creating a warmly sheltering home in the harsh outback, and who, upon her husband's sudden death when Jill was ten, began to slide--bereft of the partnership of work and love that had so utterly fulfilled her--into depression and dependency. We see Jill, staggered by the loss of her father, catapulted to what seemed another planet--the suburban Sydney of the 1950s and its crowded, noisy, cliquish school life. Then the heady excitement of the University, but with it a yet more demanding course of lessons--Jill embracing new ideas, new possibilities, while at the same time trying to be mother to her mother and resenting it, escaping into drink, pulling herself back, striking a balance. We see her slowly gaining strength, coming into her own emotionally and intellectually and beginning the joyous love affair that gave wings to her newfound self. Worlds away from Coorain, in America, Jill Conway became a historian and the first woman president of Smith College. Her story of Coorain and the road from Coorain startles by its passion and evocative power, by its understanding of the ways in which a total, deep-rooted commitment to place--or to a dream--can at once liberate and imprison. It is a story of childhood as both Eden and anguish, and of growing up as a journey toward the difficult life of the free.… (mais)
  1. 01
    A Fortunate Life de A. B. Facey (suniru)
    suniru: Both books cover roughly the same era and locatation from different perspectives.
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The memoirs of Jill Conway and her journey into adulthood from a 30,000 acre sheep ranch in Coorain, Australia, to America where she became the first woman president of Smith College.
  PendleHillLibrary | Apr 1, 2024 |
This book was authored by a woman who apparently went on to become the president of Smith College. She took some pretty fascinating subject matter and made it quite dull by narrating the entire book. No dialogue. No scenes. Nothing to make the book come alive. She's a history professor, and this book is written just like a history book. There are some lovely descriptive passages, but I can't really recommend this unless you are seriously interested in Australia and really enjoy reading history texts. ( )
  Anita_Pomerantz | Mar 23, 2023 |
Interesting memoir of a girl in a dry part of Australia and how she grew up to value an education and self-reliance. ( )
  kslade | Dec 8, 2022 |
Here's what I wrote in 2008 about this book: "Insightful into being Australian, and Australians looking to the English for their culture still in the mid 20th century. Autobiographical and insightful also with respect to women's rights and professional aspirations . . . Conway became the first woman president of Smith College." Note this was another great read recommended by friend Kevin Coleman. ( )
  MGADMJK | Sep 15, 2022 |
Few things seem further from North America than Australia. Not only is it half-a-world away, but the culture varies dramatically. Conway grew up in the back-country of Australia where she often did not regularly see other families and neighbors were tens-of-miles away. That simple start, told as well as it is in this book, sparks the reader’s interest. The fact that she ended up at Harvard by the end of the book should pique even more interest.

Conway details her life in the outback, her transition to a private school in Sydney, and her undergraduate days at the University of Sydney. As such, this memoir is a real-life coming-of-age tale. She describes how she fell in love with the field of history and decided to dedicate her life to being a scholar of women’s history.

Her writing style is impressive and entertaining. Not only does she describe things accurately and with a healthy distance, but she also picks interesting details that bring her world alive to the reader. Obviously well-read, she shows the character that brought her from an oppressive environment towards eventually becoming a leader in women’s education.

I find personal inspiration from feminists like Conway. Often, men are not encouraged to find their own place in the world like many women (especially ambitious women) are forced to. As such, the narrative of male lives often does not involve the quest for being and existence. However, I find that I, too, have those questions. Conway’s tale gives me some more rungs to hang my experience on, and for that, I am grateful.

( )
  scottjpearson | Jan 25, 2020 |
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In a memoir that pierces and delights us, Jill Ker Conway tells the story of her astonishing journey into adulthood--a journey that would ultimately span immense distances and encompass worlds, ideas, and ways of life that seem a century apart. She was seven before she ever saw another girl child. At eight, still too small to mount her horse unaided, she was galloping miles, alone, across Coorain, her parents' thirty thousand windswept, drought-haunted acres in the Australian outback, doing a "man's job" of helping herd the sheep because World War II had taken away the able-bodied men. She loved (and makes us see and feel) the vast unpeopled landscape, beautiful and hostile, whose uncertain weathers tormented the sheep ranchers with conflicting promises of riches and inescapable disaster. She adored (and makes us know) her large-visioned father and her strong, radiant mother, who had gone willingly with him into a pioneering life of loneliness and bone-breaking toil, who seemed miraculously to succeed in creating a warmly sheltering home in the harsh outback, and who, upon her husband's sudden death when Jill was ten, began to slide--bereft of the partnership of work and love that had so utterly fulfilled her--into depression and dependency. We see Jill, staggered by the loss of her father, catapulted to what seemed another planet--the suburban Sydney of the 1950s and its crowded, noisy, cliquish school life. Then the heady excitement of the University, but with it a yet more demanding course of lessons--Jill embracing new ideas, new possibilities, while at the same time trying to be mother to her mother and resenting it, escaping into drink, pulling herself back, striking a balance. We see her slowly gaining strength, coming into her own emotionally and intellectually and beginning the joyous love affair that gave wings to her newfound self. Worlds away from Coorain, in America, Jill Conway became a historian and the first woman president of Smith College. Her story of Coorain and the road from Coorain startles by its passion and evocative power, by its understanding of the ways in which a total, deep-rooted commitment to place--or to a dream--can at once liberate and imprison. It is a story of childhood as both Eden and anguish, and of growing up as a journey toward the difficult life of the free.

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