Their ladylike, demure mother was instrumental in the keeping of matrimonial harmony, with her sweet genteel nature, but lacked the fortitude to oppose any unfitting decisions that served to make their lives more difficult in times of tremendous hardship. With a strong-willed paternal Grandmother, whose love and loyalty to her only son knew no bounds, this story will keep the reader entranced from start to finish. The WWII era in Australia is a sadly neglected piece of history in the literary world. It is a story that needs to be told with passion, and deep respect for the love of a nation.
* * * * *
~Review by Warwick Fry, Nimbin Good Times Journal, Australia~
It’s not often that you get the unsullied memories of a child growing up in the Australian countryside during the years of the Second World War published raw and unvarnished over sixty years later. This is the achievement of long term Nimbin resident, Rita Carter (Lowther).
A Wayward Child begins with Rita’s country girlhood in Tumut where her father worked as a guard at the open prison farm. It describes the traumatic effects of the Second World War years on her mind and on her family, and the harsh values that informed a generation that was emotionally and intellectually starved. Rita survived with those values. This is a testimony of how difficult it is for precocious children to try to grasp problems that adults have difficulty in grasping themselves – a situation not uncommon in the isolated communities of the Australian country.
She has a writer’s eye for detail. Some of her descriptions are almost Dickensian. A writerly touch is apparent in the last sentence of a paragraph devoted to a magnificently detailed description of her grandfather and his clothing: “I think I liked him most for the way he dressed…”
We get these flashes of ‘child’s eye views’ throughout the book, all the more poignant for being written over sixty years later. And the wealth of iconic Australiana (country meals, social settings) should be mined by any producer worth his salt, of an Australian period film.
And just when you think this is a catalogue of social country life, with schoolgirl tiffs and jealousies, Rita introduces her ‘imaginary friend’ Edna, and the narrative of the Odyssey across the Australian countryside, when her father is forced to seek work, first as a shearing supervisor, and then as a rabbit trapper.
Over all this is the background of the Second World War. It looms over Rita’s childhood, it is the trauma she sees as being to blame for hardship that hard work and endurance could not prevent. The propaganda newsreels of the time had her running out of the theatres in a panic that the Japanese were on our doorstep, a constant state of childhood anxiety that voided her of any compassion at an accidental sight of Japanese prisoners during a visit to Sydney, and perhaps affords us a sympathetic glimpse of the roots of One Nation xenophobia.
It is a remarkable achievement by a remarkable, local, all Australian mature aged resident of Nimbin. As someone approaching mature age myself, I can only admire Rita’s achievement.