Great Australian journeys by Graham Seal
Allen and Unwin, 2016. ISBN 9781760291013
The interesting true stories in this collection are all based on journeys in Australia, journeys to Australia, or Australians undertaking journeys in other regions. I was pleased to discover that this was not just another history book where the achievements of famous explorers are summarised in chronological chapters. Some famous names like Burke and Wills, Mawson and Leichhardt have their place, yet the majority of stories concern relatively unknown individuals who undertook a variety of journeys. Motivations ranged from brave and adventurous spirits, patriotism, strict senses of duty and stoic attitudes to accomplish a job under harsh conditions.
Careful consideration is evident in the selections and the author demonstrates great skill in restricting each adventure to just two or three pages whilst still explaining events in a meaningful way. I had never heard some of the tales and I very much enjoyed reading about the exploits of everyday people, ranging from otherwise forgotten convicts to swagmen surviving the Great Depression and incredibly plucky women who took to the road by horse and car on pioneering travels.
The journeys range from the ancient era when our first inhabitants ventured from Asia to populate the Great Southern Land, through colonial settlement and expansion, the World Wars and contemporary events. Every mode of transport makes an appearance and characters are drawn from all walks of life, some of which I was not even aware of. I could not help being reminded of the myriad nationalities which made a contribution to our country - both significant, well known feats and common hard work, largely forgotten.
This won't be too heavy for teenagers to read. If one story fails to engage, the next one will and anyone who picks it up will learn many things which they didn't know before. Unfortunately the book is let down by a poorly executed cover which is a shame because those who are not attracted by it will be missing out on a great read.