Books

14 January 2015

Robbery Under Arms by Rolf Boldrewood, Australia, 1882



Rolf Boldrewood is the pseudonym for Thomas Alexander Browne who, if we are to believe the foreword to the book, was himself a victim of bushrangers. I first read this book when I was about twelve or thirteen, so it was interesting to re-acquaint myself with it after so many years. It is a great story and it gives a very good picture of the Australia of the 1800s (especially country Australia). At 528 pages, it can, at times, feel a 'little too long'; however, one must not forget that it was published as a serial by the Sydney Main and appeared in weekly instalments. 

The main characters, the Marsten brothers - Jim and Richard - and Starlight, are well described and, even though Richard Marsten (the narrator) often alludes to the fact that they had, unfortunately, chosen the wrong path, one cannot help but feel a certain amount of sympathy for them. The description of the bush is fantastic, and it is very obvious that the author spent a lot of time in the bush and a lot of time around horses. 

The book is well written and the use of the vernacular is well handled: it does not seem forced, and it definitely does not feel out of place. The structure of the book, beginning as it does with Richard in his cell waiting to be hanged in a month's time, and a brief allusion, halfway through the book, to Jim Marsten's demise, adds to the suspense. 

I was pleased to have reread the book after so many years - it is easy to see why it has become and still remains an Australian classic. 
Photo of Thomas Alexander Browne from en.wikipedia.org

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