Sunday, 26 August 2012

Review: Port Arthur: A Story of Strength and Courage

Port Arthur: A Story of Strength and Courage
Port Arthur: A Story of Strength and Courage by Margaret Scott

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a remarkable book.

I know I visited Port Arthur in 1992, and I think I also went there in 1994. Both of these visits were prior to 1996, when the events of this book take place. I remember coming home from a driving lesson with my father on the 28th of April 1996 to find my mother crying, telling us about what had happened.

Margaret Scott is an icon of Australian television, comedy, and literature. When my mother saw this book, she said "I think Margaret Scott was my lecturer in Children's Literature." As someone who watched Margaret Scott on Good News Week, that was an amazing revelation - I am so incredibly JEALOUS of my mother!

But anyway: this book is written by a legend, about an event that will forever be part of my memory - and she does it so very well. As a local to the peninsula, she writes about the community surrounding Port Arthur in a way that only a local could. She writes about the events of that terrible day with an urgency and effect that grabbed at me, so many years afterwards. She gave me a vision of how horrible it must have been: that day, and then in the times thereafter.

What I found particularly interesting to contemplate was Scott's comments on the ways in which history has always been artificialised at Port Arthur, and the ways in which some people wanted to either sweep the events of April 28, 1996 under the carpet, or equally artificialise them. It was a way of thinking about history, memorials, and how we mark and remark upon events that I think will really sit with me in the weeks and months to come.

It's another Australian book that I'm grateful to have read - glad to have read - and that I know I will think back to in the future.

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