Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'Fled' by Meg Keneally

Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'Fled' by Meg Keneally

Fled

by Meg Keneally

Echo Publishing, $29.99, 394 pp, 9781760680275

In 1961 the great Australian poet Judith Wright published an influential essay called ‘The Upside-down Hut’ that would puzzle contemporary readers. The basis of its argument was that Australia felt shame about its convict origins, and that we needed to move on. And we have: since 1961 the representation of the convict era in fiction and on screen has undergone a shift. Having convict ancestry used to be regarded as a cause for shame; now amateur genealogists hunt down convicts among their ancestors and celebrate when they find them.

Two 1960s novels in particular, Hal Porter’s The Tilted Cross (1961) and Thomas Keneally’s Bring Larks and Heroes (1967), winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award, showed the convicts of the earliest Australian colonies in a newly sympathetic light, and were followed in the 1970s by such onscreen treatments as the television series Against the Wind (1978), and in the 1980s by Robert Hughes’s unexpectedly best-selling and highly coloured history The Fatal Shore (1986).

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Kerryn Goldsworthy

Kerryn Goldsworthy

Kerryn Goldsworthy won the 2013 Pascall Prize for cultural criticism, and the 2017 Horne Prize for her essay ‘The Limit of the World’. A former Editor of ABR (1986–87), she is one of Australia’s most prolific and respected literary critics. Her publications include several anthologies, a critical study of Helen Garner, and her book Adelaide, which was shortlisted for a Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. In November 2012 she was named as the inaugural ABR Ian Potter Foundation Fellow. Her Fellowship article on reviewing, ‘Everyone’s a Critic’, appeared in the May 2013 issue of ABR.

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