Ros Pesman

From the earliest days of white settlement, Australians have made the voyage to Britain. Many stayed for long periods and some forever. Prominent among the more permanent residents were writers, prominent not only in terms of numbers but also because it was they who in large part created the stories and legends of Australians abroad. Some left without regret, lambas ...

At the time that I was asked to review Rosemary Lancaster’s Je Suis Australienne: Remarkable Women in France, 1880–1945, I was reading American writer Helen Barolini’s Their Other Side: Six American Women and the Lure of Italy (2006). The books are similar: five of Lancaster’s six chapters are devoted to individual women whose lives and experience, like those in Barolini, cover the period from the late nineteenth century to the mid twentieth. Both books are very much of the transnational moment, with its preoccupations with movement, connections and experience across borders, and premises that the identities of individuals and nations are formed abroad in contact and collision with others, as well as at home. The number of studies of overseas lives continues to grow but is surpassed by transcultural life writing, including Australian, in what has been described as ‘villa/ge’ books, travel writing that is about the destination not the voyaging, about living abroad rather than touring, about subject in situ rather than ‘situ’.

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My Other World by Margaret Whitlam

by
May 2001, no. 230

This book, My Other World, is in Margaret Whitlam’s words, ‘the story of my travels as the leader of group study tours around the world’ in the 1990s. It is also another episode in the life journey of a remarkable woman who has the capacity and the vitality to go on inventing new lives. Previously a swimming champion, social worker, suburban mother, prime minister’s and ambassador’s consort, advocate for adult education, Margaret Whitlam in her seventies embarked upon a new career as a travel guide, leading her companions not only into Britain, France and Italy, but also into China and Central America and the Russia and Siberia of the early 1990s. Now in her eighties, she has begun another life, writing her first book.

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