"A growing body of Australian writers is presenting their own contry to us with the true knowledge and insight that only a native can command. Foremost amongst these writers is Dymphna Cusack, author of the best-selling Come In Spinner. She dedicates this book to her own pioneering ancestors, and it is indeed a celebration of the pioneering spirit as it still exists in the small Australian town of Gubba. It is also the most cheerful of comedies, bringing to vivid life the social patterns and ups and downs of a community in which everyone knows - and usually disapproves of - what everyone else is doing.
"Gubba is celebrating the centenary of its white settlement, when gold was discovered in the surrounding hills; but there are two factions in town, with different ideas about how to celebrate. Rick Lock Dutton and his smart friends want to turn the town into a tourist centre with a new hotel and exclusive Picnic Races; but the old-timers want a community centre and the preservation of the original spirit of the town. In the ensuing struggles we learn something about the 'dolce vita' of the rich 'woolcrats', with their snobbery and pretensions, in which the pretty young Eden Dutton is caught up; and about the ordinary, decent townsfolk like Greg Millard, the gold prospector whom Eden thinks she can use as she will until she finds herself more involved than she had intended. We hear of the crusty old sheep farmers and the new class of labourers who know their own worth; of priests and tradespeople, and of the aborigines, some primitive, some a good deal abler than their white fellows. The climax of the story comes with the rediscovery of gold where it is least expected, and the triumph of the true spirit of the town.
"Miss Cusack writes in a tradition of social comedy that is familiar to all who enjoy classics of provincial life. Picnic Races is a refreshing book, written with intimate knowledge of, and warm affection for, the Australian people."
Still in pyjamas and dressing-gown, Jack McGarrity opened the french windows and padded on to the veranda. The sun was not yet up and the dew lay thick on lawn and flower-beds.
The morning ritual began. He did a few chest exercises, flexed his biceps and made a token gesture of touching his toes.
'Never felt better, Bunyip,' he told his ginger cat, gaunt and bony as himself. 'Ought to write a book: Life begins at 90! Put some heart into the young fellers.'
From the Heinemann hardback edition, 1962.
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Last modified: February 13, 2002.