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Sunday, 23 October 2016

A Long-Abandoned Park

Lyndon shares his delight in his first forays into the work of Ruth Park.

I picked up The Harp in the South a few months ago for the simple reason that it had a nice cover. Penguin had been progressively re-releasing Classic Australian novels in beautiful, minimalistic hardback editions, and Harp was an especially nice one. I had a vague recollection of my CBCA Judges’ conference, of several judges being outraged and astonished that I had could not recall reading a Ruth Park novel - in the nicest possible way, of course – with delight in the experience ahead of me as much as disappointment that it hadn’t already happened. It took years to heed their advice. Boy, am I glad that I eventually did.

The Harp in the South is the sort of book that makes you cry. It is raw, beautiful and truthful. My glamorous imaginings of life in 1948 were shredded and replaced with brutal and utterly compelling honesty in a harrowing and deeply affecting work… it’s undoubtedly a contender for the great Australian novel. And now I am on a journey through the works of my long-abandoned Park, Playing Beattie Bow is up next, as well as a return to the stories of the Muddle-Headed Wombat, who I vaguely recall from childhood but who takes on a new and critical significance now that I know he is Park’s creation.

This blog, then, is partly a plea. The fact that Park has eluded me for all this time is appalling in a way I have only just come to truly appreciate, and now I’m the evangelist about her work that the ladies at the Judges’ Conference were to me. I would love to know in the comments below which other authors I might have missed. Who do you admire most from the history of Australian literature beyond the last couple of decades? Let me know, and I’ll do some reading and then report back.

While you consider, now is perhaps the ideal time to revisit Park’s work – or, if you haven’t read it, to experience it for the first time. You will realise, from the first turn of the page, that you are in the presence of a master craftswoman whose prose sings across the decades. It is an experience not to be missed.

If you haven’t met Ruth Park, I am delighted to introduce you.

Lyndon Riggall
From the editor: Read more about Ruth Park and access a bibliography of her works.


  1. Absolutely love Ruth Park's work.. so glad you have discovered her. Hmm, who have you missed...Ivan Southall: Hill's End and Ash Road are my favourites. Patricia Wrightson: Nargun and the stars, The Ice is coming. Emily Rodda: Rowan of Rin series and Deltora Quest, Finders Keepers. Isobelle Carmody Obernewtyn books. For starters.

  2. Okay, Felicity! I know my Rodda and my Carmody so I trust your judgment! Adding the others to the reading list... Thanks so much :)

  3. Hi Lyndon, I was thinking Ivan Southall too. I well recall the power of his books, including Hill's End. Also Colin Thiele - Storm Boy, and February Dragon. If you're in Hobart you can find a lot of older children's books in the curriculum collection at the University of Tasmania central library. Worth browsing.

  4. ps I have a big Ruth Park collection including Poor Man's Orange, which is the sequel to Harp in the South, and some lesser known books - A Power of Roses, Swords and Crowns and Rings, and the brilliant Serpent's Delight, if you want to borrow.