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Book shopping!

January 4, 2011

As often happens (to me), I went out on the town with the specific intention of buying some new shoes and some nice new sheets for my bed.  I went from shop to shop.  The smell of the shoe shops (I think it’s the glue they use) made me nauseous and itchy, and in the linen shops and department stores it appears that either beige is THE ‘in’ colour at the moment, or I left my run a bit late, and that was all that was left.  I could choose white, or I could choose beige.  Or I could choose pale blue.  The last time I bought sheets for my bed I bought three whole sets of glorious purple.  So I left empty handed and started wandering back to my car, and stopped in on the way at the State Library bookshop.  And here’s what I found to soothe my shopping-angst:

From Rosenberg Publishing Australia

An Eyewitness Account of Gallipoli Words and Sketches by Signaller Ellis Silas – Edited by John Laffin – Rosenberg Publishing.

I sat on the floor of the bookshop and read this gorgeous little book from cover to cover.  Private Ellis Silas of the 16th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force was the only artist to paint and sketch actual battle scenes showing Australian soldiers in action  at Gallipoli in 1915.  But he didn’t only paint and sketch actual battle scenes, he also sketched Australian soldiers in action in Egypt – riding donkeys, getting their boots shined, buying mementos in the markets, swimming in the ocean between bursts of shell fire.  Each opening has a drawing on one side and commentary by Ellis Silas and editorial comment by John Laffin on the other side.  The drawings are not ‘graphic’ to modern eyes, but there is a drawing of Ellis Silas about to rise out of a trench with his flags – he was a signaller.  To his right, sticking out of the mound of the side of the trench are a pair of boots on legs – the legs of a buried soldier, exposed in the process of digging the trench!

My interest in things military has only recently been piqued, by exploring the  digitised records available from the Australian War Memorial  Collection and the AIF Project.  I went moseying in there one day with a couple of surnames just to see what I could find, and was lost in another world for a couple of days.  This book brings to life the real experiences of those who went  to Gallipoli, such as my great-uncle Langford Hanna, who I never met in person.

Lighthouse Girl

From Fremantle Press

Lighthouse Girl by Dianne Wolfer, Illustrated by Brian Simmonds, Fremantle Press.

Again on the Anzac theme, this time a book about a young girl who is the daughter of a lighthouse keeper, living in a lighthouse on Breaksea Island near Albany, Western Australia, the last point of departure for many of the WWI Australian soldiers.

When war breaks out in 1914, 30,000 men gather in Albany, preparing to embark and Fay becomes a lifeline for homesick soldiers desperate to send a final telegraph message to their loved ones.  The book is a fictionalised account, based on the real experiences of a real girl called Fay who lived in that lighthouse in 1914.  At 15, she would stand on the island signalling to the departing fleet.  Postcards began arriving from the Middle East, addressed to ‘The little girl on Breaksea Island’.

The book is put together like a journal with photos, news clippings and postcards ‘taped’ into the pages, with illustrated story bits in between.  Brian Simmonds’ drawings are breathtaking.  Its a visual joy and another one I devoured in the bookshop, but only fleetingly.  I will need to sit down and spend some time with this one.

It’s always nice to see a book that is primarily (?) for children/young people that deals sensitively with the issue of war and presents it from the perspective of those left at home.  The book received a ‘Notable Book’ award from the Children’s Book Council of Australia, and teaching notes are available from the publisher.  But like so many really good children’s books, it is one that adults will enjoy too – perhaps on a different level.

The Veterans

From Hesperian Press

The Veterans – A History of the Enrolled Pensioner Force in Western Australia, 1850-1880 by F.H. Broomhall, Hesperian Press.

This book was first published in 1989.  I have been coveting it ever since.  A year or so ago, when I was hovering around the edges of returning to my genealogy obsession, I spent a few hours in the State Library reading their copy and taking copious notes and photocopying here and there.

Never again.

My great-great-great grandfather, John Kirwan appears on pages 13, 82 and 99 as well as in several of the substantial appendices. The Index appears after Appendix G, on pages 134-138.  It is followed by a section of photographs, maps and copied documents.  Then there is the Biographical Index, which starts on page B1 and runs to B304.  This is a substantial book that appears to have been typed by hand and printed from the original manuscript – the text is Courier – typewriter-face. Clearly a lot of research and hard work has gone into it.  Hopefully it will become a family treasure.  But I’m not counting on it.

My life is almost complete.  All I want now is the digitised, searchable version, but judging from the dated interface on the Hesperian website, that won’t be coming any time soon.  Don’t be fooled by the interface though – Hesperian publishes all those quirky, specific topic books the bigger houses won’t touch.  It’s a storehouse of the specific, the local, the weird, and wonderful.

From Hesperian Press

Like this one.  Continuing on my theme of ‘suicidology’ (is there such a word?), I found Suicides and Settlers – Their Place in 19th Century West Australian Social History by Claire McIntyre, also from Hesperian Press.  John Kirwan (my great-great-great-grandfather) shot himself on 1 January 1873 in the Flinders Ranges.  I have often wondered what would possess a man with a fairly vast military history, once retired, to up-stakes with his wife and five children in tow, and move to a 20 year old settlement on the other side of the world.  And once there, and with at least another one child and another on the way (or in the near future), do it all again to move to another colony, and set up business in the hinterland Flinders Ranges of South Australia.  Perhaps like me, he liked people enough to deal with them on a daily basis as a proprietor of an eatinghouse, but not enough to be surrounded by them in close quarters (have I mentioned my neighbours from hell?).

This book is ” a social history of 19th Century Western Australia told through the 315 suicides recorded here.”  I ask you – what could be better holiday reading than that?  The cover notes record that Claire McIntyre moved to Sydney in 1988 “wishing to discover more of the history of The Gap at South Head and the suicides which had taken place there” leading to the publication of her first book On the Edge – Deaths at The Gap covering the period 1863-1963.   Obviously it’s not just me, then.

The Bride Ships by Rica Erickson

From Hesperian Press

My discovery of at least one ‘Bounty Passenger’ who may have been a ‘mail order bride’ in my family, led me to an interest in that topic.  I’ve recently discovered that there may be other women among my ancestors who either came to Australia with the intention of finding a husband, or who came to Australia and found a husband pretty quickly anyway.  So I thought The Bride Ships by Rica Erickson, also from Hesperian Press, might be of interest.

The title page and the publisher’s description, describe it as being about “experiences of immigrants arriving in Western Australia 1849-1889”.  The title suggests the focus is on the arrival of women to the colonies, otherwise over-represented by men.  If this is the case, I’m somewhat disappointed that they haven’t up and said so.  I’ll write a more detailed review once I’ve read the book.  And then I might write another one on the invisibilising of gender.

How to Trace Your Missing Ancestors by Janet Reakes

Hale & Ironmonger Genealogical Series

Because I have some brickwalls, dead-ends and floating branches, I thought Janet Reakes might be able to help me.  Apparently How To Trace Your Missing Ancestors – a Janet Reakes Guide, Hale & Ironmonger Genealogical Series, is the book my lovely daughter was going to get me for Christmas, but she got me another book (for another post) instead.  That I didn’t know that and went out and bought it anyway, shows that not only has she met me, she was paying attention.

In searching for the publishing house website for a link, I’ve discovered two things.  Thing 1:  Janet Reakes, who was a distant, but ever helpful companion on  my early genealogy journey, passed away in her sleep in 2002; and Thing 2: the Hale & Ironmonger publishing house either no longer exists, or doesn’t have a website.  A visit to Amazon informed me the book is currently unavailable and they don’t know if/when it will be available again.  My daughter found it just before Christmas at the Book Depository, but they are saying it’s unavailable too, and suggested I try Abe Books, which I did, and when I did they had three copies available.  If you want it get it now.  They all refer to the title as How to Trace Your Missing Ancestors whether alive, missing, or dead. The copy I have is the same as the image I’ve posted here, and the same as the image shown against that title at Amazon.  The ‘alive, missing or dead’ bit does’t appear anywhere in the book I bought today, that I can see.

I’ll let you know how I get on with the missing ancestors.

Just because I was at the State Library, I bought one of their handy guides, Convict Records of Western Australia by Gillian O’Mara, published by the Friends of Battye Library (Inc.).  The J.S Battye Library is the Library of Western Australian History, housed on Level 3 of the Western Australian State Library.  The Friends of the Battye Library website has a list of their publications and in the process of locating the link to their publications I found this handy list of their online publications.  If you are interested in purchasing any of the hard-copy publications, you can do so from the State Library Bookshop, who will happily send it to you for an additional postage and handling charge, if you are not in Perth.  The guides are small – A5 size booklets.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan As mentioned, I have been wandering around the place wondering why anyone in their right mind would get up and move to the other side of the world.  I’ve come to the conclusion that those of us who are not descended from Australia’s first peoples, and whose families have been here more than a couple of generations, are probably descended at least on some branches of our family trees from those who were forced by the law, or forced by circumstances, to come here.  In which case all of those of us that applies to, are descended from refugees of some sort.  Just saying.

I found a beautiful boxed set edition of The Arrival by Shaun Tan at the Art Gallery of Western Australia Gift Shop (which I visited before I got to the State Library).  I didn’t buy it, but I ogled it and coveted it quite a lot.  I note from his website that its available as an e-book.  I haven’t checked that out yet, and I’m not sure how well the glorious artwork would translate to an e-book format.  The tactile experience of the paper and turning the pages is half the fun.

In addition to a range of excellent and difficult-to-get-from-other-booksellers new books, the State Library Bookshop also sells archival quality paper, acid free plastic file insert document holders, white cotton gloves, photo corners and the like.  And they sell ‘discarded’ library books.  While poking through trolleys on either side of the doors to the Bookshop, I found just such a discarded library book, Visits Home – migration experiences between Italy and Australia by Loretta Baldassar, 2001, published by Melbourne University Press.  I bought it for $2!  It doesn’t appear on their catalogue list, so if like me, you would like to read it, you’ll either have to find it somewhere second hand or hope your local library hasn’t discarded it.


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