Reprint: Mrs Aeneas Gunn: "We of the Never-Never"

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In the year 1908 there was published in Australia a book which was destined to achieve an immediate and wide popularity, and which many competent critics -- and those not Australian alone -- belleve to be one of the few "classics" that Australian literature has yet produced. This was "We Of The Never Never," a book which not to have read is to have missed one of the good things of life. It is a tale of experiences on a station in the Northern Territory, and the reason why every incident rings true and every charactor is clothed with flesh and blood is -- apart from that natural aptitude for the pen which is the great gift of the author, and which in her amounts to genius -- simply because those incidents and characters are not only based on actual happenings and actual people, but are very often complete reproductions of them. "We of the Never-Never" abounds in humour; but as with so much true humour, the tears are never far behind. Sentiment which never degenerates into sentimentallty; vivid description of scenes and people; and above all a natural and unaffected style, inform every page of this great story. For it is a "great" story, and the man or woman who can read it without yielding to its cheery laughter or its simple pathos is not to be envied.

The authoress of "We Of the Never-Never," Mrs. Aeneas Gunn, is now resident in Victoria, and the story is really of her own life at Elsey Station in the "Territory." Married on January 31, 1901, Mrs. Gunn set out for her new home three days later. She arrived at Elsey in February; and from that time onwards until her final departure from the Territory, the events of the daily round were chronicled by her assiduous pen. Transmuted by the fire of her genius into the gold of literature, they stand to-day, and will stand long, as a sympathetic, true, and striking picture of North Australian life.

Quite recently the Melbourne "Argus" conducted a plebiscite upon the question of the relative merits of Australian novelists. The result placed Mrs. Gunn third upon the roll of honour, the only two to gain precedence over her being Marcus Clarke and "Rolf Boldrewood." It was a verdict that speaks well for the taste and judgment of those who participated in it; but, nevertheless, there are many who believe that "We of the Never-Never" is a finer and a better book, both as a novel and as literature, than elther Clarke's grim story of "the system," or "Robbery Under Arms."

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 September 1927

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on September 28, 2011 7:24 AM.

Australian Bookcovers #275 - Rough Wallaby by Roger McDonald was the previous entry in this blog.

Great Australian Authors #48 - Jeannie (Aeneas) Gunn is the next entry in this blog.

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