In a 1985 interview, Kylie Tennant was quoted as saying: ‘I … don’t know how people get on who haven’t been raised in a battling Australian family.’ Jane Grant expands upon this image of Tennant as a quintessential ‘Aussie battler’ in her biography of the acclaimed novelist. Kylie Tennant: A life is relatively brief, yet it provides a remarkable insight into the pressures (societal and otherwise) that informed Tennant’s politics and prose.
The book opens in November 1932, when Tennant, then twenty years old, walked ‘600 miles’ to visit her friend and future husband, Lewis Rodd, in northern New South Wales. On one level, Grant writes, this trek represented ‘an escape from [Tennant’s] family’s middle-class expectations as her father was threatening to find her a respectable job’. More broadly, perhaps, Tennant’s trek might have been an early indicator of her ability to gain independence and to achieve her goals despite facing seemingly insurmountable odds.