Andrew McGahan’s THE WHITE EARTH

As part of Aussie Author Month I wanted to review my all-time favourite Australian book. This is a bit of a challenge because I have not read the book for a number of years. I wish I had time to re-read books but I don’t have enough time to read all the books in my pile for the first time let alone have a second or third go at my favourites.

THE WHITE EARTH was originally published in 2004 and won the Miles Franklin Award in 2005. It is set on the Darling Downs in Queensland and is about a young boy, William, who must go and live with his estranged uncle after his father is killed by a bushfire. His uncle owns a large cattle station and homestead that is now in a state of disrepair. The uncle seemingly has no heirs to the property and wants to educate William about the history of the land and the homestead in the hope that he can pass the property onto him. Through the uncle we learn about the history of the land and all its inhabitants.

There are many reasons why I love THE WHITE EARTH over other Australian novels (I actually rate in my Top 10 all-time reads – see blog header). The main reason was the progression of Andrew McGahan as a writer. I discovered PRAISE and 1988 just after I finished High School. After spending 13 years at school being exposed to only a certain type of Australian novel it was eye-opening to discover an Australian book so raw and honest. I thoroughly enjoyed LAST DRINKS, especially as the main character was a washed up journalist, a field I was interested in at the time. But THE WHITE EARTH was something else entirely. It was a giant step up in writing, story, characters and scope. It surprised me at times and had me questioning my outlook on the world and Australia. Which I think is the difference between a good book and a great book.

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