Elaine Forrestal

Family Histories

Creating family stories

‘Families. Where would literature be without them?’

When I first read this line from Stephen Romei’s column in Review magazine (The Weekend Australian, 13-14 April 2019, p21) I thought, ‘Not another family history.’ In the past these tended to be self indulgent, long winded and needing some slashing and burning by a professional editor. I had forgotten just how far this genre has come and how many of our best authors have been able to mine their family stories, reshape and burnish them until they have become absolute gems of Australian literature. For example Kate Grenville’s Secret River and Amanda Curtin’s Elemental are two of my all time favourite books.

Then I thought about Parallel, the new manuscript I have been working on for the last few of months and … ‘Wait a minute. Didn’t that idea originally come from a casual comment my daughter made about one of our own ancestors?’ I have fictionalised the story of a sixteen year old girl, living in England in 1819. So much so that it is almost unrecognisable. And I’ve linked it to the parallel story of a contemporary girl. The girl’s stories take place two hundred years apart. The challenges faced by both girls are very different, but human nature basically hasn’t changed. Hopefully, when I have finished the book, readers will be able to experience the lives of both these young women and see how they face similar challenges in their very different worlds.

Meanwhile, Clara Saunders is still making her presence felt in the stark desert world of the gold rush of 1892. Stay tuned.