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Carrie Tiffany was born in West Yorkshire. Her family migrated to Western Australia in the early 1970s where an attempt to live off the land failed. She spent her early twenties working as a park ranger, and now lives in Melbourne.
Mateship n. the quality or state of being a mate; esp: fellowship On the outskirts of a country town in the early 1950s, a lonely farmer trains his binoculars on a raucous family of kookaburras roosting next to his dairy. But as Harry observes the birds through a year of feast, famine, birth, death, war, romance and song, his neighbour, Betty, has her own set of binoculars trained on him. Of Betty's two fatherless children, it is Michael who gravitates towards the gentle man next door, and Harry, sensing Michael is ready to stretch his wings, decides to teach him the oldest lessons in the world. Harry knows all about girls. But how much does he really know Betty?
This review is provided by bookgroup.info.â€œThere are days of slow chugging through the wheat. I look out of the window at the engine as it rounds a bend. Living on a train is like living inside the body of a snake. We are always leaning into the curves, always looking forwards, or backwards, never aroundâ€¦â€¦â€¦..â€ So begins this extraordinary first novel by Carrie Tiffany. It is 1934 and the government â€˜Better Farming Trainâ is bringing expert scientific advice to the smallholders and farmers of the vast Australian countryside. Skilled persons, who teach and advise these small town folk, staff the train. They are there to instruct that, in order to increase productivity, it is the farmersâ patriotic duty to use the application of science in their daily lives. Among these experts are our two main protagonists â€“ the narrator, Jean Finnegan (seamstress) and Robert Pettergree (agronomist). In the stifling, claustrophobic atmosphere of the train their fate is sealed after an unexpected, passionate encounter amid the heady drone of the bees in the â€˜honey carâ. Bound by this action (though they donât speak of it again) the two are married and set up home in the Mallee a remote and unforgiving region. Here they live an impoverished existence - both emotionally and materially. While Robert experiments with his â€˜super-phosphateâ and scientific wheat production methods, Jean dutifully records the yields and quality of the bread produced. Their home is a laboratory, their lives an experiment. A series of calamitous crop failures turn the region into a dust-bowl and Robert is blamed (and blames himself) for the tragedy that follows. This is a captivating book beautifully written in simple spare prose and, in a rather nice editorial quirk, the text is interspersed with photographs - as though placed there by Jean herself. The Lovereading view...An enchanting and wise novel about the rocky terrain of both a hostile landscape and the human heart. Shorlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2006.
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