Sunday, May 5, 2013

Educating Alice, by Alice Greenup

'A girlfriend should know her place, Alice. First comes the mates, then the ute, then his hat, dogs, horses and last of all the girlfriend. Get that right and you might just stick around. Try to jump the queue and you’re history.’
‘Well then, I’ll just have to be his mate.’
‘Girls can’t be mates, Alice.’
‘We’ll see.’

From this book:

I was lucky enough to win this book after a contest on Bush Babe's blog and it showed up at my doorstep last week, after hoofing it all the way from Down Under to my doorstep in downtown Montreal. (The link answers the questions we posed to Alice, the author.)

I've had a fascination with All Things Australian since I read My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin and then saw the movie with Judy Davis and a very young Sam Neill. (sidenote: If you have a Kindle, you can download My Brilliant Career for free!) Written in 1901 and set in the Australian Outback, My Brilliant Career is about a headstrong young woman named Sybilla, smart, spirited and very rebellious, this is a woman who lives life on her terms.  She flips the bird to a traditional life when she refuses to marry and settle down. There's drought, a father who drinks and lands the family in debt, and ultimately triumph when she chooses a life of her making, that of a writer. And funnily enough, Educating Alice has a lot of these elements too.

I began Educating Alice with the hope that this might be a juicy, real life Australian adventure, and I was not disappointed. In fact, it has an opening that did not allow me to put the book down until I read it straight through to the end.

This is the memoir of Alice Greenup, a self-described city chick from Melbourne who at eighteen years old, tells her mum she's leaving university to "find herself" then hops on the back of a motorbike driven by her brother's mate. On a whim, she lands herself a job as a governess on a Queensland cattle station and falls in love not only with a handsome "jackaroo" but eventually, life in the bush. They end up marrying and buying a homestead of their own, but along the way there are many obstacles to overcome as she learns about cattle, drought and real life in the bush. Greenup offers a brutal and unflinching look at her life, and we learn this is one very determined and tenacious woman. She tackles all challenges head-on, and not just severe drought and financial setbacks, but most especially, an accident which she describes in such vivid detail it gave me chills. That she went on to become a winner in the Meat and Livestock Australia when she couldn't tell a bull from a cow, or that she fought her inner demons (she calls these dark thoughts her whispering "genie") and won Australian Women's Weekly's Most Inspiring Rural Woman is a testament to her courage and fortitude.

Besides enjoying the story of her life, I took particular delight in the discovery of new words and expressions that are unique to Australia. I kept a list of things I looked up, words and expressions that are second nature to Aussies but foreign to a girl from Canada. Here are some that made me smile:

A dingo's breakfast -  a "piss and a good look around."

"Farmers have built-in wanker radar." (So true.)

Jackaroo (and the female equivalent, jillaroo) - one who works on a cattle or sheep farm

Smoko - afternoon tea in the Outback (and by "outback" I don't mean a Subaru)

Larrikin - (loved this one)  a "mischievous or frolicsome youth"

Akubra - type of Australian cowboy hat, handled and worn in a Very Specific Way. Available in Montreal, should I ever wish to acquire one for myself, though now I'm afraid to touch one in case I pick it up incorrectly and embarrass myself. Maybe I'll stick to touques.

Ute - this is the Australian equivalent of the pickup truck.  I think it's short for Utility Vehicle

Bogey - shower (not a nose nugget)

Waddy - strange

Humpy - a small, temporary shelter made of tree branches and bark, used by Aboriginal Australians

Bitumen - asphalt road

Besser bricks - cast concrete blocks

Eskies - Aussie slang for portable coolers, also known as a "chilly bin" in New Zealand

Baked lamingtons - squares of sponge cake, dipped in chocolate and rolled in coconut.  Usually seen at school fairs and bake sales. This, in and of itself, is enough to make me want to go.

Brumbies in the sand hills - meat and veg mixed with batter and fried

Doona - it's a duvet!

So there you have it. 

If you'd like to read Alice's book, and you live outside Australia, you have three options.

1. Go to a bookstore in Australia.

2. Visit me in Montreal and read my copy.

3. Order it in eBook form for your Kindle.

There are no physical copies are available in the U.S., Canada or U.K. because the publishers are wankers. Not really. I just wanted to put my new found vocabulary to the test. I don't know if soft or hard cover copies are available in Sweden, Togo or Croatia either, but I rather doubt it. Again, wankers. But you know, this is the beauty of the Kindle. You can be anywhere in the world and download this book and be reading it in minutes!

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to whip up a batch of brumbies in the sandhills and lamingtons after I've had a nice, hot bogey.


BB said...

Laughed til I cried (and I have read it already!). FYI Some of those words can have other meanings in certain parts of Australia. Just to confuse you. (BOgey CAN mean nose nugget, and waddy can mean a BIG stick!)

Alice Greenup said...

Your review and final observations about the publishing industry have me roaring with laughter and clapping my hands with delight - and of course scrambling to the keyboard to forward your review "she said it - not me". I think you qualify as 'half-handy'.So delighted you've enjoyed the journey. I believe the next book for your love of Australian Literature is EB Facey's - A Fortunate Life - I am about to read it myself for the first time, but have been told its a must, and there is shared sentiment between the two memoirs. Much love from Australia. Alice

A Novel Woman said...

Well, I'm right chuffed you liked the review!

BB, I guess I'll have to walk softly and carry a big waddy.

Alice, I wish you every success, in all aspects of your life. I shall look up Facey's book and add it to my TBR pile. Many thanks!