Near the end of Midge, author Marjorie Abell’s memoir of early childhood, she mentions reading one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books and wishing she could live the same way. At its best, this tale of growing up in the Australian bush strikes a similar tone.
Abell describes life with her siblings, teacher father, and stay-at-home mother as loving but complex. The family moved regularly as her father changed jobs, and they traveled around the continent during summer breaks, camping in various parks or visiting extended family. Bush living sounds a bit like homesteading as she describes it: “Finally the clothes were hung out. The clothes line stretched across the back lawn obscuring the dunny. We’d put the props on an angle to lower the lines to within easy reach and peg everything out using lovely old wooden dolly pegs bleached pale and soft.” (Context will help non-Australian readers with words like “dunny”—which means outhouse—but a glossary would be a helpful addition here.)
While her father’s temper occasionally led to beating the kids with a strap, Abell took the discipline in stride. Descriptions of lugging chopped firewood, cooking and heating water on a wood stove, and the warmth between family members more often take precedence.
There’s a casual, tell-it-like-it-is quality to this work that feels appropriate, and despite writing from adulthood, the author nicely taps into the voice and viewpoint of herself as a child. Readers will sense the powerful love between family members. Numerous family photos give the book the feel of a keepsake for those who were there.
Midge will remind anyone who grew up in a rural setting of their own childhood and will likely fascinate those who’ve never experienced such a life. It’s an absorbing account of a close-knit family in a remote locale.
Also available as an ebook.