The Books are Emerging

Books about the end of the world as we know it are already emerging. Dystopian novels, prescient in their timing, uncanny in their descriptions of our present situation, although called by a different name, are being reviewed this weekend. In one case it is almost a year since the book was first published, which means the author had the idea long before that. Even my own, Goldfields Girl, has its echos of a past pandemic. Like covid-19, typhoid is invisible, highly contagious and thrives in places where hygiene and sanitation are almost non existent.

Goldfields Girl by Elaine Forrestal now available from Fremantle Press

In September 1892 the largest movement of people in Australia’s history occurred. People from all over the world flocked to the newly discovered reef of pure gold which was eventually called Coolgardie. They followed a very basic track for three days out into the desert east of Southern Cross. But there was no such thing as social distancing in those days. Prospectors pitched their tents in close proximity to each other. They clustered together, not only for company but for safety from the vast, unknown desert. And from  thieves who might try to steal their meagre stash of gold, or even their life – especially if the thief had already been driven crazy by thirst. Like the corona virus, typhoid thrived in the camps where there was no water to drink, let alone for washing your hands, your cooking pot or the shared enamel dinner plate both you and your newfound mate ate from. The death toll was so high in those first few months on the new diggings that one man wrote in a letter to his friend: ‘One half of Coolgardie spends all of its time buying the other half.’ But those who did survive to tell the tale, like 14year old Clara Saunders, speak of the camaraderie that develops between people who struggle against a common enemy and share what little they have. Encouragingly the same can be said for most of us in the present crisis. Already there are stories emerging. Tales of small acts of random kindness to strangers. Useful little treasures of innovation shared with neighbours. And, most importantly, the gift of laughter.

Stay healthy. And exercise your sense of humour.

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