The Other Side of the World
Hachette, $29.99 pb, 352 pp, 9780733633782
One of the most potent stories we can tell is a story of migration. With the exception of indigenous people, every Australian originally came from somewhere else. Take just one source: the emigrants from England. Kate Grenville writes about her convict and settler ancestry in her Secret River trilogy; in The Golden Age, Joan London writes of European refugees in Perth in the 1950s, a time she can remember as a child; and now a much younger writer, Stephanie Bishop (the subject of this month’s Future Tense), takes as her theme a ‘ten-pound Pom’ migration in the 1960s, in a story based on the memories and experiences of her grandparents.
What these stories have in common is a sense of the other side of the world as ambiguous, unsettling, even alienating. You can so easily escape one set of problems only to be confronted with a new set – or the same old problems in a different guise. And when a couple or a family makes the move, the experience can tug at each individual in radically different ways, putting new strains on the relationship.