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Anchor Point - Book Review

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by May (subscribe)
Typical Gemini, with the concentration span of a gnat & not one for sitting still. My old Da used to say that "you're a long time dead". So my mantra is get busy living.Please join me for more at
Published April 6th 2016
Long listed for the Stella Prize
Anchor Point is the debut novel of Alice Robinson. Robinson is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Melbourne Polytechnic. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from Victoria University and her work has been published widely. Anchor Point has been long listed for the Stella Prize.

Ten year old Laura takes on adult responsibilities around the family farm when her disinterested mother disappears into the bush. Laura does something foolish which shapes the rest of her life, and leads to an adolescent running the house, taking care of her younger sister, and working beside her father in the clearing of their acreage to create a farming environment.

Her life as a teenager is one that many country kids still lived up until recently: fencing, birthing sheep, euthanising farm animals, and living off rabbits. As the eldest daughter she also cleans, cooks, tends the vege garden and is her father's confidant.
courtesy of author
Book Cover

It is a hard life in a harsh evironment which experiences all the forces of nature: floods, drought, dust winds and bushfires.

After the younger sister leaves for University on a scholarship, Laura heads to Sydney to study agriculture, with her father's blessing. She meets Luc, a Greenie, drops out her studies and they attempt to build a life.

However, Laura ends up returning to the farm when her father becomes unable to manage because of Alzeihmer's Disease. Luc stays in the city pursuing his political dreams.

Laura continues her struggle to tame the farm, but the work is constant, and the climate doesn't give an inch.

This novel, though well-written and at times lyrical, is bleak. There is no happy ending, and if you have a tendency to absorb depression through the air, give this book a wide berth. It doesn't mean that the harshness of the landscape isn't true. It just makes it difficult reading.

Unlike others, I did not take this as a novel about climate change, nor about sibling rivalry, nor even friendships. Rather, I sadly read this as an eldest daughter's attempt to fill multiple roles - daughter, wife, sister, farmhand, chief cook and bottle washer - giving always to others and never leaving anything for herself or to realise her own dreams. It's about obligation, family expectations, and fighting for survival, and I guess as a city person I find that a more difficult concept to grasp.
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