Between 1947 and 1971, more than 320,000 migrants passed through Bonegilla Migrant Camp on the banks of the Murray River in rural Victoria making it Australia’s largest post-war migrant centre. It’s estimated that one in twenty Australians has links to Bonegilla.
The novel, The Last Of The Bonegilla Girls by Victoria Purman, commences with four young teenagers forming a friendship and sharing their lives within this Camp; a Greek, Hungarian, Italian and the daughter of the Australian Camp Director. It starts strongly by highlighting the difficulties experienced by each these families upon their arrival in a new country: language barriers, segregation, cramped living conditions, limited employment opportunities, and a mix of cultural beliefs. Despite these differences these lasses remain friends as their families move forward into Australian society and remain in contact for the next fifty years.
Although these families are assimilating they also retain their own cultural identities and customs – arranged marriages, working in the family business, dating from your own ethnicity.
This could have been a really good and educational book but it deteriorated midway to just another soap opera episode with flings left, right and centre.
I have fond memories of northern Italian neighbours snatching the bread rusks off my teething babies and giving them chunks of salami to suck on instead. Greasy and full of garlic but it certainly stopped the grizzling.(umm, I probably shouldn’t mention that said babes had their first taste of Lumbrusco on their first birthday. Hands up those for the Mediterranean diet!)
Well Done, Those Men: Memoirs of a Vietnam Veteran by Barry Heard is a difficult read, made more so as it was written as part of his journey to recovery from PTSD. It’s rawness made me flinch.
This memoir covers several versions of Barry: the naive and young country boy, smart arse Barry at boot camp, Barry the soldier of Vietnam, and the Barry who returned home a different man.
This is another one that had me asking why did we not learn anything about this conflict in High School history classes. You know, I don’t even have any memories of discussions about Vietnam around the dinner table.
I would not recommend this book as a fun read, but by God I think it a wonderful reminder of the strength of the wives, sweethearts, and family members who support these old blokes.
Lastly, Liz Byrski’s A Month of Sundays is about four women from an online book club, who meet up and holiday together for four weeks to talk books and memories (with an illness thrown in for good measure).
Byrski is a journalist and writer who gears her books to an audience of women over the age of fifty and/or retired.
I’m just letting it be known now that if the highlight of my life becomes a weekly yoga class, as in this book, I’de be popping a cyanide pill.