Into the loneliness by Eleanor Hogan

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In the early 20th century two amazing intrepid women, Daisy Bates and Ernestine Hill, each separately cast aside the comforts of society, to explore the desert areas of Australia, and seek out the Aboriginal tribes and iconic outback settler life; each of them writers supremely confident that their records were essential to preserving a disappearing piece of Australian history.

Ernestine Hill worked with Daisy Bates on bringing together her famous work The passing of the Aborigines, later falling out when Bates failed to acknowledge Hill's contribution. Hill's view was that she herself was the true author of the work. It was a strange friendship, with 36 years difference in age, and despite the dispute about authorship, they continued to correspond and collaborate together at different times.

Hogan is meticulous in following the lives of these two women, at times venturing out, a lone woman herself, into the desert, to retrace their steps and to gather stories from Aboriginal people who might still remember either of them. Her research reveals the contrasting images of Bates as ethnographer and caretaker for Aboriginal people, and the hateful woman who perpetuated stories about cannibalism and denigrated mixed race children.

Both Bates and Hill were pioneers, casting aside convention, and following their own paths. However each of them struggled with the tasks they set themselves. Later in life, Hill ended up unable to bring her own writing together to fulfil her dream of the great novel; her notes are now kept in archives. It is thanks to Hogan's research that we now have this record of the adventures of these two women, and their genuine though flawed commitment to the understanding and preservation of a unique Australian culture and way of life.

Themes: Non-fiction, Biography, Women writers, Australian outback, Indigenous Australians.

Helen Eddy