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10 thoughts on “We of the Never Never

  1. says:

    I had already read this book many years ago but somehow I had forgotten how sad the ending is To have so much for just fourteen months and then have to return to Melbourne alone to pick up the pieces of her former life It must have been really hardAnyway I enjoyed this memoir from 1902 when Australia was a very different place in so many ways I admired Jeannie Gunn for having the grit to leave her suburban city life and not just live but thrive in the middle of nowhere The living conditions on the Elsey Station were harsh for anyone but for woman from her background they must have seemed appalling However she certainly had courage and a sense of humour which got her through most situationsI enjoyed We Of The Never Never as a good memoir of a year of this author's life and also a very enjoyable tale Of course as it was written well over a hundred years ago it is also a social documentary and reports actions and beliefs the way they were then One of the chapters in particular leaves today's readers feeling very uncomfortable I think we just have to be grateful that we have come so far in our change in attitudes and remind ourselves that there is still a long way for us to go

  2. says:

    It was 1902 and with the “little Missus” being told she shouldn’t be joining her husband when he ventured to the homestead “The Elsey” in the Never Never of the Northern Territory because a white woman didn’t belong the determination of them both to go saw them on board a train from Darwin Once leaving the relative comfort of that vehicle it was horseback with their first setback being stuck on the wrong side of the Fergusson River with the country experiencing “the Wet” But cross it they did and eventually after three days and sixty five miles they arrived at the KatherineAnother three hundred miles over rough terrain and tracks only the stockmen could see they finally arrived at The Elsey The homestead wasn’t much but they would make do With initial resentment from the stockmen it wasn’t too long before they warmed to the “little Missus” Her courage and tenacity in the face of it all meant respect from the men The size of the remote cattle property meant the men were always off doing something or other The bush hospitality meant they shared everything they hadThis Australian classic has been read by many and is an important historical book Jeannie Gunn’s words in We of the Never Never paint vivid pictures of the isolation the struggles and problems day to day activities were for the settlers the treatment of the Aboriginals and the obvious but accepted back then racism that was all around This is my second read of this book – my first was a lot of years ago and although dated I’ve enjoyed it once again Recommended

  3. says:

    I did enjoy this book and the fact that it is autobiographical is amazing I had to keep reminding myself of this To be a lone white woman moving into the Never Never with mostly stockmen for company and hundreds of miles from the nearest city was arduous And this was in the days before telecommunicationI did however find myself at a complete loss as to what was being said sometimes I think there was a mixture of Scottish and early Australian collouial language used that I was not at all familiar withEnjoyable and interesting yes Hard to follow at times also yesAn Australian classic about the pioneering womenfolk

  4. says:

    From the outset a melancholy air hangs over We of the Never Never As the author herself tells us in her “Prelude” All of Us shared each other’s lives for one bright sunny year away Behind the Back of Beyond in the Land of the Never Nevera land of dangers and hardships and privations yet loved as few lands are loved—a land that bewitches her people with strange spells and mysteries until they call sweet bitter and bitter sweet Called the Never Never the Maluka the author’s husband loved to say because they who have lived in it and loved it Never Never voluntarily leave it Sadly enough there are too many who Never Never do leave it So from the first page we know that the author lived to tell her tale but that others did notThe tale she tells is of a city born newly married white woman’s first and only year—1902—at Elsey Cattle Station several hundred miles south of Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory “The missus” as the author is known surprises everyone with her determination to participate in the life of the station “thought they mostly sat about and sewed” the uiet Stockman says in dismay She rides—side saddle of course—and camps out in the bush under a mosuito net The station is huge and fenceless and the cattle are “scattered through a couple of thousand suare miles of scrub and open timbered country” p 102 Mail arrives every six weeks Stores come less often by bullock wagon; there’s a fascinating description pp 118 19 of how carefully the drivers spell and water their bullocks so they are able to “get over a fifty mile dry” ie a fifty mile stretch without water to drinkThe isolation endured by those who live and work in the outback is astonishing We learned that our traveler had “come from Beyanst” with a backward nod towards the ueensland border and was going west; and by the time the cabbage and tea were finished he had become uite talkative “Ain’t see cabbage ma’am for ’n five years” he said leaning back on to a fallen tree trunkadding when I sympathized “nor a woman neither for that matter” pp 126 27 Danreturned at sundown in triumph with a great find a lady traveler the wife of one of the Inland Telegraph masters Her husband and little son were with her but—well they were only men It was five months since I had seen a white woman and all I saw at the time was a woman riding towards our camp I wonder what she saw as I came to meet her through the leafy bough gundies It was nearly two years since she had seen a woman pp 130 31 “Gundies” are described by the author as “tiny fresh cool green shade houses here there and everywhere for the blacks; one set apart from the camp for a larder and an immense one—all green waving boughs—for the missus to rest in during the heat of the day” p 123The author herself is never alone on Elsey Station however; even when her husband and the other stockmen are away she is surrounded by Aboriginal women who are described as happy if somewhat wayward children in the casually racist manner of the period She also has a Chinese cook and gardener Cheon ditto Despite her sense of superiority she is well aware that The white man has taken the country from the black fellow and with it his right to travel where he will for pleasure or food and until he is willing to make recompense by granting fair liberty of travel and a fair percentage of cattle or their euivalent in fair payment—openly and fairly giving them and seeing that no man is unjustly treated or hungry within his borders—cattle killing and at times even man killing by blacks will not be an offence against the white folk p 185 I hardly need say that Aboriginal Australians are still agitating for these and other “fair liberties” So that’s another reason for the sense of melancholy this memoir left me with And closer to home my mother was born and grew up on a property in southern New South Wales a world away from the vastness of the Northern Territory and yet some of the scenes in We of the Never Never are just familiar enough to make me mourn the loss of all of it—the delicate art of horse breaking the delights of the arrival of the mailman the dry humour of the stockmen the sense of the numinous “whispered out of the heart of Nature” p 171

  5. says:

    A very enjoyable read mostly because ofA Beautiful description of the Australian bush For a moment we waited spellbound in the brilliant sunshine; then the dogs running down to the water's edge the gallahs and cockatoos rose with gorgeous sunrise effect a floating gray and pink cloud backed by sunlit flashing white Direct to the forest trees they floated and settling there in their myriads as by a miracle the gaunt gnarled old giants of the bush all over blossomed with garlands of grey and pink and white and gold The Reach always slept; for nearly twelve miles it lay a swaying garland of heliotrope and purple waterlilies gleaming through a graceful fringe of palms and rushes and scented shrubs touched here and there with shafts of sunlight and murmuring and rustling with an attendant host of gorgeous butterflies and flitting bird and insects And Very uaint and or Rustic feel of life There's one fairly steady good sized table at least it doesn't fall over unless some one leans on it; then there's a bed with a wire mattress but nothing else on it; and there's a chair or two up to your weight the boss'll either have to stand up or lie down and I don't know that there's much else exceptiong plenty of cups and plates they're enamel fortunately so you won't have much trouble with the servant breaking things walls sprouted with corner shelves and brackets three wooden kerosene cases became a handy series of pigeonholes for magazines and papersThe book was very entertaining despite the feel that nothing ever happened to my city chic's mind anyway; Whatever do you do with your time? ask the townsfolk sure that life out bush is stagnation but forgetting that life is life wherever it may be livedLife out bush was hard and what was very very obvious from this book was that humour was their mainstay Life then definitely do not sound 'down' at allI couldn't help myself that I kept picturing scenes of 'Australia' movie whilst reading this book However I do realise that bushmen were most probably not as hot as Hugh Jackman LOL

  6. says:

    It's an Australian classic Jeannie Gunn recounts her 15 month stint in a remote cattle property in the Northern Territory during 1902 1903 She has a whimsical manner and her names for the people she meets is a highlight The Sanguine Scot The Dandy Mine Host the uiet Stockman It's a harsh life with much pride in the achievements of the settlers and some terrible descriptions of the treatment of Aboriginals and the acceptable racism that existed It's dated by it does form an important historical document

  7. says:

    This is a challenging book to review It very much reflects the attitudes of the time towards Aboriginal and Chinese people attitudes which are now unacceptable and hard to read However there is also a lot to like about this book It paints a vivid picture of station life including the isolation and privations The reader cannot help admiring Jeannie Gunn's willingness to leave behind a relatively comfortable life and join her husband in the remote 'Never Never' There are some beautiful passages describing the Australian landscape and the characters are compellingly drawn Though uncomfortable at times this was still a very interesting read

  8. says:

    One of the things I tried to do for this challenge was to read a number of books I have been meaning to read for some time We of the Never Never was one such book Because it is an Australian classic from the early 20th century I expected to find parts of it confronting and in that I was not disappointed A uick precis the book is a memoir of the author's first year on the Elsey a station in the Northern Territory several days' journey by the modes of transport then available from Katherine She is there because she has just married the Elsey's manager referred to in the book as the Maluka this is later explained to be a name given to him by the Aboriginal people they have contact with and is at least so the author tells us untranslateable She is the only non Aboriginal woman on the Elsey She tells the story of her journey from Darwin to the Elsey early in the Wet season and goes on to narrate other episodes including staffing difficulties the completion of the homestead and trips out on the stationThe book is a product of its time and much of what I expected to and did find confronting is a reflection of that The best example of this is the author's attitude towards race and class She or at least her persona as narrator for the most part likes the people she finds on the Elsey whether they are Black white or Chinese the cooks but her attitude towards all of them is very plainly that of the lady of the manor towards the peasants in the village Even when describing situations in which another person knows than she does her tone is patronising and condescending This is most obvious in relation to her attitude towards the Aboriginal people she describes There is no acknowledgement that she is discussing people who come from a cultural background entirely unlike hers who have a different set of values to hers Rather she judges them as if her values are the only possible standard and finds them lacking and childlike There is a considerable degree of the noble savage myth in her perception of them and a total lack of understanding of the great injustice that had already been done to them which was continuing and to which she contributed I found this jarring and insulting I also found the author's attitude to gender roles troubling although once again I can understand it to be a product of the time She readily accepts her position as the relatively cosseted sole white woman and all that goes with that That said she shows a willingness to chip in that belies her princess like status to some extent and one might wonder how much of the avowed compliance with gender roles was exaggerated for the audience Finally while the author acknowledges many of the hardships difficulties and dangers faced by people living on a remote station in the early twentieth century the book as a whole still seems to me to romanticise that life to a significant extentDespite my criticisms Mrs Gunn wrote clearly and in a manner generally easy to follow although because of the pseudonyms she uses for many characters particularly the white stockmen it can be easy to get them confused This perhaps contributes to the classist overtones of the book Similarly she refers to her husband as the Maluka from the beginning of the book but the explanation does not come until about a third of the way in We of the Never Never is worth reading for two reasons First it is a book by a woman about a woman's life in a situation about which we know comparatively little especially as it applied to women Secondly and importantly it gives some insight although not perhaps the insight the author intended into attitudes of the day in relation to race and gender especially the former and the atrocities committed under the guiding light of those attitudes This helps us to understand how far we have to go in trying to redress those wrongs

  9. says:

    To get the most out of this book you really have to take yourself out of the modern world and put yourself in the shoes of Mrs Aeneas Gunn Jeannie Gunnas a young bride at the beginning of the 20th Century in Outback Australia See the world through her eyes and you will see the wonder of the 'bush' and the ability of people to adapt to making the most of having very little and finding comfort in the uncomfortableRemember also that the author wrote about this one year 1902 spent with her new husband during her mourning of his death in 1903 and you will see the bitter sweetness of the memories she recountsThere is much controversy over this book however taken in context of the time and place it provides a reasonable account of what it was like for white people living in remote areas of Australia before the advent of 'mod cons' to make life just a little bit easier

  10. says:

    This book paints a vivid picture of a time and a place in Australia’s outback history