Moving among strangers: Randolph Stow and my family by Gabrielle Carey

cover image

University of Queensland Press, 2013. ISBN 9780702249921.
(Age: Senior Secondary) Gabrielle Carey has written an intriguing and unusual investigative memoir, which explores the life of Australian writer, Randolph Stow, through a rather tenuous link she has made after reading a few pieces of correspondence that Stow shared with Carey's mother. The reasons for setting off on a quest to discover more about Stow is not very clear but what follows is an insightful picture of a man who, after great literary success, uproots and leaves Australia for England, where he lives out the rest of his days. With her journey Carey discovers details about her mother's life that she did not previously know and, consequently, she explores the relationships she has with her sister, father and the extended family. Carey's life is not unlike Stow's in many ways. She achieved great fame with Kathy Lette for Puberty Blues (1979), moving on to write more about the spiritual. She undertakes a journey, which will also help her come to terms with the loss she has suffered through family. Stow was bitter about the Australia's inability to care for its indigenous people as well as its failure to appreciate his work and artistic life in general.
Considerable space is given to analysing Stow's stories, not in a deep literary sense, but almost in passing, which gives the reader a wonderful overview of his work. There is little in print now, although The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea (1965) is readily available. (Midnite is another story this reader would like to revisit). As well as recalling his letters, Carey quotes such memorable lines from Stow's stories, that we wonder why his name has been rather lost to time. Hopefully, this book of Carey's will renew interest in such a writer of vision and beauty. Its great value lies too, in showing how stories come about from finding connections between people and places.
Moving Among Strangers will be of great interest to more able school students who are also interested in discovering more about out writers and the Australian literary tradition.
Julie Wells