Monday, 6 April 2015

A Drover’s Blanket

 A Drover’s Blanket by Clancy Tucker (Clancy Tucker Publishing)
PB RRP $35.00 including P&H (overseas postage additional) E-book $3.00
ISBN 9780646922713

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

This is the brilliant sequel to the wonderful historical fiction book Gunnedah Hero. A Drover’s Blanket begins with fifteen year old Gunnie at Wiralee Station with his uncle Wirra Danson. After reading the historical documents left to him in his grandfather’s will, Gunnie’s attitude to life changes completely. He knows now that he belongs at Wiralee which has been in his family since 1848. Gunnie’s dream of publishing the historical documents in book form is finally realized.

The neglected Swenson Station, Molly’s old home, is up for auction.  Attending a clearing sale there teaches Gunnie more about his great-great-grandfather Smokey and his love in life, Molly Jane Swenson. He also meets Artie, Molly’s brother who was born after she left home after being battered by her father and ostracised by her family, to join Smokey at Wiralee. Gunnie finds a journal written by Molly in 1910, in a pile of books untouched for years, and makes a deal with the hard, cruel, and unscrupulous Brett Swenson. Gunnie tries to buy the old horse Molly Jane, a direct descendant of Molly’s horse Dusty for Wirra, to keep the line going.

But things start going wrong from the time Gunnie arrives at the farm. Wiralee, the new foal is stolen. Jenni, Gunnie’s best friend, is returning home when her plane goes down. The portrait of The Wiralee Queen is taken from the farm house along with Molly’s journals.

Then, Wirra is diagnosed with a stomach tumour just when he has found a woman to love. Gunnie thinks his presence has brought this on. There are decisions to make and courage is needed. But does Gunnie have what it takes? Who stole Molly’s picture and journal? And will the Aboriginal workers find Jenni?

The story is told in a switching sequence between Wiralee Station – Present Day, and the entries from Molly’s journals, which reveal Molly’s point of view, emotions, love for Smokey, and her back story. We can feel the deep love Smokey and Molly shared; how the drought destroyed her father (along with many other farmers) causing him to sink into deep depression and become a cruel and violent person. We also view the type of family the Dansons were: strong, loving, family oriented, philanthropic, and with an unbreakable bond with the land and its Indigenous owners.

Clancy Tucker has used the diary entries to present historical events which inspire and educate. There is reference to the massacre of Aboriginals in Coniston, 1928; the Wave Hill walk-off, and finally, Wattie Creek. These milestones in Australian Indigenous history are beautifully knitted into the story in a stirring and emotional way. They became starting points for further research about our Australian outback pioneering forebears. This is an excellent series to challenge the mind of young readers of the 8-80 age groups and send them resourcing the history of our early pioneers, whose strength, resilience and humanity inspires.

Magic Billy is the next book in the series, but there will be several exciting individual titles by Clancy Tucker available before that is released.

Available as paperback and e Book via Clancy’s blog: http://www.clancytucker.blogspot.com.au/p/books.html and Morris Publishing Australia:

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