Thursday, May 28, 2009

Project 365 Wed 27 May 09


For some completely different--and because Gerry at work loaned me the book--I read Bearbrass: Imagining Early Melbourne by Robyn Annear. My review: 8/10.

The front cover.

This wasn't something I would ordinarily have read; my reading of early 19th century literature so far around has been focussed on a society moving away from rural roots and headlong into the industrial revolution and it's been easy for me to view this as how everybody lived during the 19th century. This book has made me realise how narrow that view has been, and for this alone, I'm grateful to Gerry for how my reading has improved with the books he lends me.

This book has shown me how far away from this view Melbourne was. By the 1830s it was in its infancy and struggling for existence until the emergence of gold during the mid 1830s. Melbourne definitely wasn't inhabited by elegant men and women living in beautiful country homes; but by tough, hardy men and women focussed on surviving and building a future.

Imagining what that Melbourne was like was a much easier exercise using this book. Each chapter is introduced with a description of what you would find on a particular street corner, even though the desciption in my copy relates to about 20 years ago and a few things have changed. I still found it easy to imagine the location, and once I was there the same location that locality and its inhabitants of around 200 years ago would be explored. I especially enjoyed the 'stories' in the book to explain artefacts such as boots preserved in mud in Collins Street (this is a great story starting on Chapter 3), and I love how well Melbourne, its people and their motivations came to life in her hands.

Part of the story of the boots.

This book should be read by all Melbournites, and I think Melbourne tourism would be enlivened with a 'Bearbrass' tour.

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