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The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway

The Road from Coorain (1989)

by Jill Ker Conway

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This book is a memoir of Jill Ker Conway's life growing up in Australia until she left to come to America at age 26. Her parents acquired land in the New Soth Wales outback of Australia and started a sheep ranch out there. Jill was born out there and had 2 older brothers. Because the ranches are so huge, a child's life is somewhat solitary. Then there was a drought and her father died under circumstances that indicated it might have been suicide instead of an accident and the family left and moved to Sydney leaving a manger on the farm.

The book continues to tell her story until she leaves Australia at the age of 26 to attend graduate school at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts. Although not part of the story, she eventually is appointed the first woman president of Smith College in Massachusetts in 1975. (Smith is a women's college)

Her observations about her mother and living with her "eccentricities", changes in viewpoint, and demanding nature were hard to read sometimes. That Ms Conway could write about her mother so honestly must have been hard to do as she does not come off as a nice person.

I really enjoyed this and it's been sitting in my TBR pile at least since I started keeping track of it in 2009. I wonder what other gems are in there, sitting neglected and patiently waiting? ( )
  dudes22 | Oct 26, 2014 |
Wonderful book. Many very memorable stories. My mother-in-law, Tatty recommended this and I am very glad she did. I have suggested it to lots of my friends. If you like this you might also like 20 Chickens for a Saddle that takes place in Botswana. ( )
  njcur | Jul 9, 2014 |
Not as satisfying as it should have been. Some parts are beautifully written and evocative but at times it gets in it's own way and sometimes I wonder of she really did see the world in such purely academic terms. She skates over, as much as she goes into, the emotional aspects of her life. It's a curious but interesting mix.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
The first book of any sort I have ever read that captured both the beauty and the harshness of the Western Riverina and its endless horizons. The story really drew me in. I must add that I am from around this general area and first read this book whilst away at boarding school so this may have coloured my perception of the book. ( )
  charlottelow | Jun 10, 2013 |
As long as this memoir stayed in Coorain, I was captivated. Once it strayed down the road, my interest waned. The struggle of Jill Ker Conway's family to make a living on 18,000 acres of droughty Australian outback has an exotic and almost heroic appeal. Her subsequent teens and early twenties in Sydney, contending with a difficult mother while trying to find her path in academia, don't have nearly the lustre. The writing is careful and has a whiff of scholarly writing, especially in the way that Conway takes a reductionist approach where almost every event or person gets somehow explained away. Sometimes it feels more like dissection than memoir, and not much leeway is left for the reader to imaginatively connect with Conway's younger self.

My own dwindling interest post-Coorain, is mirrored in the reception of her three memoirs: the further her ambitions pulled her from Coorain, the less interest there was in her books - each appealing to a progressively narrower audience. Regardless though, of how appreciative one might be of Conway's achievements as a pioneering woman in modern day postsecondary education, the trajectory of her life is breathtaking by any standard. As a child she alone could comfort her young father through his horrifying nightmares of Ypres, Passchendaele, and France. Nowadays her interviews and speeches are featured on Youtube. Her cohort, those who came of age in the 1930s and 1940s, and who are now hitting their 80s, have lived through more profound social, cultural, technological, and political change than any other. In Conway's case this passage is amplified by how far she also came geographically and by how much she was able to achieve along the way. ( )
  maritimer | Jun 8, 2013 |
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The western plains of New South Wales are grasslands.
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Given me by Jack Roberts on very high recommendation, 12/18/13.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679724362, Paperback)

From the shelter of a protective family, to the lessons of tragedy and independence, this is an indelible portrait of a harsh and beautiful country and the inspiring story of a remarkable woman's life.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:56 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A woman of intellect and ambition describes growing up on an Australian ranch, coping with her father's death and her mother's depression, her intellectual awakening at the university, and her path to becoming Smith College's first woman president.

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