Big congratulations to the lovely Carrie Tiffany, winner of the first ever Stella Prize for her novel Mateship with Birds. The new prize, celebrating Australian women’s writing, was awarded last night. Well done also to all the wonderful women who were on the shortlist:
Courtney Collins for The Burial
Michelle de Kretser for Questions of Travel
Lisa Jacobson for The Sunlit Zone
Cate Kennedy for Like a House on Fire
Margo Lanagan for Sea Hearts
It’s quite a few years since Carrie Tiffany wrote her first book which was a best seller at the time. It was called Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living and was about a train that travelled in country Victoria with ‘experts’ in fields as varied as housekeeping, child rearing and all manner of agricultural pursuits. It was partly based on a real story of the ‘Better living train’ which actually toured country Victoria in the 1930′s. The book was terrific.
Her new book is again set in the country and is about lust, loneliness and the constrictions of living in a small country town. Betty is a single mother with two children Michael and Hazel. Harry is a dairy farmer who quietly lusts after Betty and tries to become a father figure to Michael in particular in relation to females. Harry was a very naive man when it came to sexual matters, and he doesn’t want that to happen to Michael. I laughed out loud at one of Harry’s snippets of advice about the need to cut one’s toenails before any sexual activity. I won’t spoil the line but it’s a gem. The rhythms of country life and the harshness of it are part of the book and in some ways I was reminded of Foal’s Bread by Gillian Mears. Both books take us to a time and place in Australia’s history that most of us never experience. A life which can be unforgiving, but which has it’s own joys.
Carrie Tiffany doesn’t waste words so the book is short. Short but perfectly formed. Highly recommended. Excellent for book groups. $20