A HOUSE OF TREES: Memoirs of an Australian Girlhood by Joan Colebrook

A HOUSE OF TREES: Memoirs of an Australian Girlhood

Email this review


In Australia we used to sit on the veranda,"" this distinguished, often radiant memoir begins, and in summoning up her 1920's girlhood among North Queensland pioneers, Colebrook (Innocents of the West, 1978; etc.) emerges as a writer of uncommon vitality and depth. Colebrook's parents settled in the Atherton tableland after the first wave of immigrants--convicts and such--had left a trail of bold and daring adventuring. Her father, a true visionary, established businesses and respected the goals of union organizers, but his instincts were romantic rather than commercial or political: he tended to acquire properties for their bush beauty and neglect their ""development."" Her mother had an engaging pioneer spirit and versatility, able to welcome Lord and Lady Cecil one day, then plunge into the scrub the next. ""Entertained by other people's memories"" in a house ringed by rain forest, the six children grew up exposed to social issues at the dinner table, to British discipline and educational methods at school, and to Church of England rituals at a nearby grandmother's. Colebrook went first to a local mining town school, then to a more exacting one and university in Brisbane before marrying an American and, despite reservations about becoming ""respectable,"" leaving Australia altogether. As she resurrects this vanished world--a splendid combination of ""British rectitude,"" ""colonial fortitude,"" and tumultuous natural beauty--Colebrook finds parallels between Australia's civilizing and her own. Threading the narrative with exotic detail--stinging trees, giant clams as big as a man--she has given this lyrical, immensely satisfying recollection a resonant sense of time and place.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux