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The Road from Coorain (1989)

by Jill Ker Conway

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1,621288,333 (3.87)88
Depicts Jill Ker Conway's celebrated memoirs of her Australian youth.
  1. 01
    A Fortunate Life by A. B. Facey (suniru)
    suniru: Both books cover roughly the same era and locatation from different perspectives.

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Few things seem further from North America than Australia. Not only is it half-a-world away, but the culture varies dramatically. Conway grew up in the back-country of Australia where she often did not regularly see other families and neighbors were tens-of-miles away. That simple start, told as well as it is in this book, sparks the reader’s interest. The fact that she ended up at Harvard by the end of the book should pique even more interest.

Conway details her life in the outback, her transition to a private school in Sydney, and her undergraduate days at the University of Sydney. As such, this memoir is a real-life coming-of-age tale. She describes how she fell in love with the field of history and decided to dedicate her life to being a scholar of women’s history.

Her writing style is impressive and entertaining. Not only does she describe things accurately and with a healthy distance, but she also picks interesting details that bring her world alive to the reader. Obviously well-read, she shows the character that brought her from an oppressive environment towards eventually becoming a leader in women’s education.

I find personal inspiration from feminists like Conway. Often, men are not encouraged to find their own place in the world like many women (especially ambitious women) are forced to. As such, the narrative of male lives often does not involve the quest for being and existence. However, I find that I, too, have those questions. Conway’s tale gives me some more rungs to hang my experience on, and for that, I am grateful.

( )
  scottjpearson | Jan 25, 2020 |
Great look at the hard life & the effects on the people who sacrifice so much to inhabit the rural regions of Australia. Tough unforgiving & dependent on rain. The loss of the father on the farm them the oldest son in a sports car gives an irony to the differences. Author is a trail bladder for women at university. ( )
  BryceV | Oct 18, 2017 |
Conway's autobiography of her childhood is interesting for the glimpse it offers of a completely different life - growing up on a large Australian sheep station. It's an honest look, too, at the relationships and family dynamics that might have broken a less intelligent and/or determined young girl. I enjoyed it, but I just don't like reading biographies for book club - we wind up discussing the person's life or events, rather than the BOOK & writing. (Added note: Aug 2009 - despite my own decided bias, ALL of the book clubs I participate in have continued to occasionally choose biographies or autobiographies. I still feel the same way about the discussion - or lack thereof.) ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 26, 2016 |
good novel growing up in Australia - widowed mother - farm life wanted to do right thing didn't know how —

From the first sentence, you will be drawn inexorably into the story of her childhood in New South Wales, Australia, and her gradual discovery of—and by—the larger world: the clarity of Conway's language satisfies like cold clear water after a day in the desert: the rhythm of her sentences has a timelessness and expansiveness akin to the Australian landscape itself.
  christinejoseph | Feb 7, 2016 |
Jill Ker Conway was the first woman to serve as president of Smith College in Massachusetts, and this memoir depicts the first part of her life journey, from birth on an Australian sheep farm to her mid-20s, when she left for the United States. Conway’s parents became homesteaders in a remote part of Australia in 1929, as part of a government program granting land to former soldiers. It was a hard and isolated life, but they had many years of successful farming until a drought hit. A significant life event led them from Coorain to Sidney, where at age 11, Conway attended school with other children for the first time. The rest of the memoir describes her intellectual growth in the face of gender discrimination, her changing role in the family, and her relationship with her mother which presented several conflicts and dilemmas as Conway matured.

I found Conway’s story quite interesting, especially her fight against societal pressure to conform to the expected female role. Ultimately she had to leave her home country to pursue her dreams, which made me curious about the later phases in her life and whether she ever felt “at home” in Australia again. But those are subjects of later memoirs … ( )
  lauralkeet | May 23, 2015 |
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The western plains of New South Wales are grasslands.
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Depicts Jill Ker Conway's celebrated memoirs of her Australian youth.

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The Road From Coorain is the beautifully written narrative of Jill Ker Conway's journey from girlhood on an isolated sheep-farm in the grasslands of Australia to her departure for America (and eventually the presidency of Smith College).
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