I loved this book. Telling the story of a father, Macauley, traipsing around the outback of north-west NSW in the 1950s with his four-year-old daughter, Buster, in tow, The Shiralee (an Aboriginal word meaning burden) not only gives an unsentimental picture of the relationship between a father and daughter but also a wonderful insight into the outback itself and the people who inhabit it.
Macauley has fled not only the city but also his wife after he found her in bed with another man. Now in the far corner of the state, walking from place to place in search of odd jobs, occasionally picking up a lift and all the time camping rough, he swings between mild irritation at having to take care of Buster, and a very possessive and deep love of the child - a love which he is not always able to articulate.
Though written in the vernacular, it is in no way forced or artificial but manages to beautifully capture a period of Australia's past that possibly no longer exists. The many characters Macauley meets are nuanced and realistic, blending well with observant descriptions of the Australian outback. Definitely a book worth reading.
In 1957, the book was made into a successful film with Peter Finch in the lead role.
Photo of D'Arcy Niland from www.darcy-niland.com.au
Photo from the film from www.dailytelegraph.com.au