Engrossing memoir of an unorthodox girlhood in Australia by Conway, a historian who in 1975 became the first woman president of Smith College. Conway was born at Coorain, a sheep ranch on Australia's western plains. Her mother, who tried to keep up English-style standards in the bush, was often disoriented by the isolation and harshness of the landscape, but young Jill discovered profound satisfaction in "the annihilation of the self, subsumed into the vast emptiness of nature." By age eight, she did an adult's job on the ranch; her education consisted of reading her mother's books and devoting a few hours each Friday afternoon to a correspondence course. A few years later, her father was dead, her mother sank into depression, and drought threatened to destroy Coorain. Taken to Sydney, Jill was enrolled in a private girls' school where she hadn't the slightest idea bow to talk to or play with other girls. After Jill's adored older brother died in an accident, her mother became increasingly dependent on sÇances, alcohol, tranquilizers, and Jill--while Jill herself was becoming a historian. Impatient with books that interpreted Australian history in British Empire terms, she was eager to do her own research but faced obstacles: her mother's demands and 1950's Australian society that had no place for a woman scholar. Her memoir ends on the eve of her escape--departure for graduate studies in the US. A wonderfully vivid, thoughtful picture of the Australian national character and experience--and of an exceptional woman's personal and intellectual growth.