On a Bright Hillside in Paradise
Vintage, $32.99 pb, 310 pp
Anyone who watched the recent SBS survival series Alone Australia will have gained a new understanding of western Tasmania: of how wild it is, and how rugged, and how cold. A hand-to-mouth, hardscrabble life of subsistence farming there would be bad enough today; for the nineteenth-century white settlers of Annette Higgs’s novel it is close to unsurvivable, and indeed some of her most vulnerable characters do not survive it.
On a Bright Hillside in Paradise, winner of the 2022 Penguin Literary Prize, tells the story of a white settler family through three generations. As Higgs explains in a short Author’s Note at the end,
The story of the Hatton family is loosely based on my own family. Eliza Wise was a real person, as was her convict husband Benjamin Walters. One of their daughters married a farmer and settled under the aura of Mount Roland in the Kentish district and raised a large family. They were living there when the Christian Brethren evangelists arrived in 1874 and swept the people up in enthusiasm for revivals and creek baptisms.