The Road From Coorain

The Road From Coorain

eBook - 1990
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A woman of intellect and ambition describes growing up on an Australian ranch, coping with her father's death and her mother's depression, her intellectual awakening at the university, and her path to becoming Smith College's first woman president.
Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, 1990.
ISBN: 9780307797308
Characteristics: 1 online resource (213 p.)


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IndyPL_SteveB Jul 11, 2020

Exceptional memoir of growing up in Australia. Jill Ker (married name Conway, years later) was born in 1934 and raised on a massive sheep ranch in western New South Wales. The family was successful for several years until a long drought nearly destroyed the farm. When she was 11, her father died, perhaps as much from depression as anything.

The memoir covers a lot of time and territory, from Jill’s earliest memories and her love of the Australian prairies through her college years at the University of Sydney and eventual departure for a graduate history program at Harvard in the United States. (She eventually became a well-known American historian and was even the President of Smith College for 10 years.) Her writing about the land she lived on is beautiful. Her detailed appreciation for nature, for the colors of the desert, for the hardy animals who lived there, for the hardy *people* who lived there, drew me in.

After the death of Jill’s brother and the emotional collapse of her mother, her inner life and professional future started to come into focus. The 1940’s and 1950’s were not kind to female intellectuals anywhere; but women trying to become professionals in Australia were especially badly treated. Excellent book. You may find yourself wanting to follow up with her other two memoirs, which cover her later life, *True North* and *A Woman’s Education.*

Jan 13, 2018

Absolutely beautiful book, although very sad in places. An autobiography of Jill Ker Conway - the first 25 years of her life growing up in Australia. She later became the first female president of Smith College. The best biography I've read in years. She expresses her thoughts and feelings in exactly the right way for each age, and when she diverges from that she lets us know - i.e. "I didn't realize until much later that..." A fascinating account of life on a sheep station and the terrible costs of extended drought. I had read about the most recent Australian drought in the newspapers and seen the pictures, but it never really came home for me what that meant until I read about it from this family's perspective. There is also keen insight (Conway is a sociologist/historian) as to the Australian national character and what it meant to become a woman intellectual in the 1950s. I highly, highly recommend this book.

Aug 28, 2016

I just finished this book and was engrossed by it! Her descriptions of growing up on the Australian bush are fascinating and reminded me of Sandra Day O'Connor's memoir.

The authors focuses a great deal on her relationship with her mother and her desire for independence a place where this is not encouraged. This clearly leads her to her new academic calling focusing on women and new independence.

Apr 28, 2015

A great writer can make any life into an exciting memoir and that is what has happened here. Conway is a fantastically gifted writer of history and she has applied her skills to her own life. The reader will get a highly enjoyable summary of recent Australian history as well as the author's thoughtful investigation of her own experience coming of age in Australia. There are several interesting threads running through the memoir: the settling of Australia's outback by European settlers and ranchers, Australia's subtle turning from Britain to America during the political and military wrenchings of WW2, Conway's struggle to be a dutiful daughter and yet create a life for herself, and Conway's struggle to prove herself in male dominated intellectual circles. The book is of that delightful genre, wherein we find The Secret Garden, The Little Princess and David Copperfield, that features the solitary child who is shaped by her early protective environment and the making of solitary discoveries in the world around her, and then later moves into a complex world where she is called upon to use all the skills her early life has taught her, even though that life is gone,

Nov 27, 2013

A well-written and self-revealing autobiography/memoir of an Australian women who was the first female president of Smith College. She reveals how growing up in the harsh outback (dust storms, water shortages, isolation, etc.) affected and informed her life. Read it and be inspired.

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