‘HIGHLY COMMENDED’ 2013 FAW NATIONAL LITERARY AWARDS – CHRISTINA STEAD AWARD FOR FICTION. Through a combination of bad luck and poor decisions a once privileged grazing family are forced from their historic property. Relocation to a coastal caravan park provides benefits for some and consequences for others, dire consequences. The high cost of low life!
I recently received an urgent SMS a from a gal pal (let’s call her Darl because, well, that’s what I call her) saying she was halfway through a novel I simply had to read. It was about a farming family (of which we know many) in Australia’s Riverina who fall on hard times and end up living in a caravan / trailer park. There were old homesteads, country polo tournaments, boarding schools and even Florence Broadhurst wallpaper. The protagonist’s extended family lived in exclusive Palm Beach (Australia’s – Malibu like – surf beach enclave) adding to the intriguingly elitist tone.
It sounded like just the light, airy and rollicking read I needed to cheer myself up in the depths of winter. Pure escapism.
What Darl and I didn’t know was the second half of the book was going to take us on a journey neither of us foreshadowed.
So dark, so unexpected, so traumatic were some passages we simply had to persist and keep reading. The sipping of champagne at Riverina Polo soon gave way to anally injecting heroin in a filthy cabin. (Among other twists we didn’t see coming)
At the end Darl turned to Pinterest for diversion and respite. I had to walk to the beach to clear my mind. If I didn’t live 800 kilometres from Darl, I’m sure a live debrief would’ve involved several Riverina Semillion Blancs.
As the days passed we found we were still talking about the novel. We were also increasingly beside ourselves the family were forced to live in a caravan park even though the extended family were reasonably wealthy.
Surely the protagonist’s rather well-to-do brother could’v’e helped them to buy a small country cottage in the Riverina. Perhaps in leafy Cootamundra with a good school for the children and agricultural work available around the district for a hard working ex-farmer. Surely!
Wouldn’t you help a family member who’d gone broke or would you ship them off to a caravan park?
Cootamundra is a gorgeous town in Australia’s Riverina district with a population of around 5,000. Although a functioning town supporting the local farming industry it also has a thriving main street. Good coffee and excellent local food abounds. There’s also a sense of sunny optimism. Just the sort of place to retreat to after losing a financial battle with a national bank.
This two bedroom home in central Cootamundra has good bones and is crying out for an update.
The Cootamundra cottage may be one of the cheapest homes in Australia but I think it has some hidden potential. The facade reminds me of a Cape Cod classic.
Just the style of house to suit some Florence Broadhurst wallpaper.
I’d take it before I let my family live in a caravan park with heroin addicts. I really would.
Post Script: As I complete this post I note the Cootamundra house has gone under offer.