Storyland by Catherin McKinnon is the fourth and final book that I bought off the shortlist for the Miles Franklin Awards 2018. This was my favourite!
The story in this rang truest with me, and was more powerful and clever. It was very fixed in location with the Australian bush, which I love. There was some magic in the way the story went through time, with threads of connection, and then backwards through time again.
All the stories are based in the Illawarra, just below Sydney. The first is with the young explorer, Matthew Flinders. It explores the terror and excitement of exploration, and the making of young men in Australia.
The second story is a convict trying to make a living and grow a crop cut into the bush in the Illawarra. It is about the tensions with the Aboriginal people. It is about tough survival, and the harshest of the stories.
The third is about early farmers of the area, when it’s settled with small farm holdings. There is a young blended family who don’t fit in, and the controversy of a girl who goes missing from a neighbouring farm and is murdered.
The next is about a young autistic girl in the late 90s, living a wonderful life with her friends, but getting caught up witnessing a relationship plagues by domestic violence. It is also also tale of mixed races and Aboriginal artefacts.
Then we jump forward into the future – this is odd, but very powerful. It is the recounting of a time in our future by someone who is recovered another 100 years into the future after the planet seems to have been destroyed by climate change.
There are some features that carry through and connect each story in place – a huge fig tree, and a corner in the creek that has a rock that looks like a fish. Each central character in each period of time has a moment where they sit on or come across the rock or the tree. There is also a connection to an Aboriginal artefact that appears again and again.
The main character throughout is the landscape and sense of location. It is very strong, and really rings true for me because of my own sense of connection to the Australian bush. It tackles some strong themes with grace, and the stories were powerful.
I would have given this book the title of the winner of the Miles Franklin Award … if it were up to me!