Australian Literature

The Matilda Saga by Jackie French

 

The Matilda Saga is a series of five books, spanning seventy to eighty years. It starts with A Waltz For Matilda, set in 1894, and the most recent book, set during the Vietnam War, is The Ghost By the Billabong. The series chronicles the journey of Matilda and her descendants throughout the decades and across the Australian outback. They encapsulate the Australian bush culture and the experiences of the bush and the surrounding area, transporting readers to a world beyond what they know. The reading order, and a synopsis of each taken from the author’s website are below:

A Waltz For Matilda: In 1894, twelve-year-old Matilda flees the city slums to find her unknown father and his farm.
But drought grips the land, and the shearers are on strike. Her father has turned swaggie and the troopers want him. In front of his terrified daughter, he makes a stand against them, defiant to the last. ‘You’ll never catch me alive, said he…’
Set against a backdrop of bushfire, flood, war and jubilation, this is the story of one girl’s journey towards independence. It is also the story of others who had no vote and very little but their dreams. Drawing on the well-known poem by A.B. Paterson and from events rooted in actual history, this is the untold story behind Australia’s early years as an emerging nation.

The Girl From Snowy River: The year is 1919. Thirty years have passed since the man from Snowy River made his famous ride. But World War I still casts its shadow across a valley in the heart of Australia, particularly for orphaned sixteen-year-old Flinty McAlpine, who lost a brother when the Snowy River men marched away to war.

Why has the man Flinty loves returned from the war so changed and distant? Why has her brother Andy ‘gone with cattle’, leaving Flinty in charge of their younger brother and sister and with the threat of eviction from the farm she loves so dearly?

A brumby muster held under the watchful eye of the legendary Clancy of the Overflow offers hope. Now Flinty must ride to save her farm, her family and the valley she loves. Set among the landscapes of the great poems of Australia, this book is a love song to the Snowy Mountains and a tribute to Australia’s poets who immortalised so much of our land. The Girl from Snowy River combines passion, heartbreak, history and an enduring love and rich understanding of our land.

The Road to Gundagai: Blue Laurence has escaped the prison of her aunt’s mansion to join the Magnifico Family Circus, a travelling troupe that brings glamour and laughter to country towns gripped by the Depression.

Blue hides her crippled legs and scars behind the sparkle of a mermaid’s costume; but she’s not the only member of the circus hiding a dark secret. The unquenchable Madame Zlosky creates as well as foresees futures. The bearded lady is a young man with laughing eyes. A headless skeleton dangles in the House of Horrors. And somewhere a murderer is waiting … to strike again.

This third book in the Waltz for Matilda saga is set in 1932, at the height of the Depression. Miss Matilda is still running Drinkwater Station, but has put aside her own tragedy to help those suffering in tough economic times and Joey, from the Girl from Snowy River, uses his new medical skills to solve a mystery.

To Love A Sunburnt Country: In war-torn Malaya, Nancy dreams of Australia – and a young man called Michael.
The year is 1942 and the world is at war. Nancy Clancy left school at fourteen to spend a year droving, just like her grandfather Clancy of the Overflow. Now sixteen, Nancy’s family has sent her to Malaya to bring home her sister-in-law Moira and baby nephew Gavin. Yet despite the threat of Japanese invasion, Moira resists, wanting to stay near her husband Ben.
But not even Nancy of the Overflow can stop the fall of Singapore and the capture of so many Australian troops. When their ship is bombed, Nancy, Moira and Gavin are reported missing.
Back home at Gibbers Creek, Michael refuses to believe the girl he loves has died. As Darwin, Broome and even Sydney are bombed, Australians must fight to save their country. But as Michael and the families of Gibbers Creek discover, there are many ways to love your country, and many ways to fight for it.

And,

The Ghost By The Billabong: Hippies wear beads, demonstrators march against the Vietnam War, and the world waits to see the first human steps on the moon’s surface.
But at Gibbers Creek, Jed Kelly sees ghosts, from the past and future, at the Drinkwater billabong where long ago the swaggie leaped to his defiant death.

But is seventeen-year-old Jed a con artist or a survivor? When she turns up at Drinkwater Station claiming to be the great-granddaughter of Matilda Thompson’s dying husband, Jed clearly has secrets. As does a veteran called Nicholas, who was badly wounded in the Vietnam War and now must try to create a life he truly wants to live, despite the ghosts that haunt him too.
Set during the turbulence of the late 1960s, this was a time when brilliant and little-known endeavours saw Australia play a vital role in Neil Armstrong’s ‘one giant leap for mankind’ on that first unforgettable moon walk.

This series of books takes the reader on a journey from pre-Federation Australia to the seventies. It uses key images of bush poetry, and the titles of some famous bush poems – the first is a play of Waltzing Matilda, book two references The Man from Snowy River, and book four alludes to Dorothea MacKellar’s poem, My Country, which opens with “I love a sunburnt country.” In encapsulating these aspects of Australia and the bush, Jackie French has continued the tradition of Australian stories that have the feel of an oral yarn around the campfire.

Published by Ashleigh Meikle

Ashleigh is an aspiring writer and has been writing for many years. Her interests are varied and she has written in a variety of genres in fiction and nonfiction.

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