Tournament of Books 2015
 
 

Special Offers see all

Enter to WIN a $100 Credit

Subscribe to PowellsBooks.news
for a chance to win.
Privacy Policy

Visit our stores


    Recently Viewed clear list


    Original Essays | January 6, 2015

    Matt Burgess: IMG 35 Seconds



    Late at night on September 22, 2014, at a housing project basketball court in Brooklyn, a white cop pushes a black man against a chain link fence.... Continue »

    spacer
Qualifying orders ship free.
$4.95
List price: $14.95
Used Trade Paper
Ships in 1 to 3 days
Add to Wishlist
Qty Store Section
1 Beaverton World History- Australia and New Zealand
1 Burnside Literature- A to Z
1 Burnside Australia- General

This title in other editions

The Road from Coorain

by

The Road from Coorain Cover

 

 

Reading Group Guide

1. In the first chapter, Conway writes of the "bush ethos which grew up from making a virtue out of loneliness and hardship" (p. 8). Stoicism and self- sufficiency are the ideals adopted by the outback settlers. How have those ideals shaped the Kers' lives? In what way have they been destructive to the family? Though Conway finally rejected these values, is it possible that they helped her to break away from her potentially

unproductive life and start again?

2. Conway stresses the fact that Australians of her parents' generation defined themselves as Britons and saw their own country only in British terms. They equated their national interests with England's; even their map of the world was seen from a British perspective, with nearby Japan located in the "Far East." How did this attitude shape the educational system into which Jill and her brothers were placed? How did it color their attitudes toward their native country? How did it shape the young Australians' class consciousness, in a country whose social and racial make-up was so different from contemporary England's?

3. How does Conway present her mother as a prototypical twentieth-century woman? In what way are the attitudes of Australian society to blame for the mother's deterioration from being an independent professional, a "great healer" (p. 195), to a neurotic hypochondriac? How has her simple system of values proved inadequate to the complex world of the twentieth century? To what degree do you feel that she has caused her own problems?

4. Conway compares the barriers against women that she herself encountered as she grew up with those that shaped her mother's life. Some were openly acknowledged (i.e., the inequitable wages for men and women offered in the Help Wanted ads). Some were more insidious: unspoken prejudices buried deep within the culture. How do the two women differ in the way they confront these barriers? How do their different educational backgrounds affect their points of view?

5. Conway speculates that had her parents encountered failure earlier in their lives, they might "have learned to bend a little before the harshness of fate" (p. 23). How does the disastrous drought at Coorain affect the character of Conway's father? Conway suggests that his death was a suicide. Does she acknowledge and confront his implied abandonment of her and the rest of the family?

6. "It was a comprehensible world" (p. 50), Conway writes of her early childhood on Coorain. "One saw visible results from one's labors" (p. 50). In what way does the young girl's comprehensible world turn into an incomprehensible one? What efforts does she make to confer meaning upon it? How do religious, spiritual, and intellectual systems of thought help or hinder her?

7. Conway writes that in Australia, "people distrusted intellectuals. Australians mocked anyone with 'big ideas' and found them specially laughable in women" (p. 146). But the same Australians who mocked "ideas" also had a high regard for success, inclusive of academic success. What shape do these contradictory attitudes give Australian society? How does the isolated position of Australian intellectuals, as depicted by Conway, reflect this dichotomy? The United States, like Australia, is a culture with a significant history of anti-intellectualism. How is this reflected in our own society?

8. How did Conway's experiences with professional discrimination against women bring her to a more personal realization of the fate of Australia's aboriginal people? What do her parents' use of the nardoo stones found on Coorain signify to her?

9. Mid-century Australia had an overwhelmingly white population, but this was not true of England's colonies and dominions in Asia and Africa. How does Conway's visit to newly independent Ceylon change her view of the British Empire and of the imperialist credo of white superiority? The credo is not merely racial, but cultural as well. What perspective is Conway given on her own society's culture and history by her first encounter with the wider world?

10. While the Australians willingly went to war for England, England's treatment of Australia as expendable during the Second World War dramatized the actual state of affairs. Conway knew that "it was time to give up pretenses of the old British Empire, recognize that we were a Southern Pacific nation, and begin to study and understand the peoples and countries of our part of the globe" (p. 182). How does Conway relate her own choice of vocation as a historian to her country's quest for identity? By extension, in what symbolic ways does she identify her own life with that of Australia?

11. Conway's story, like James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, ends with her acceptance of a life of exile. But unlike Joyce, she sees her exile as resulting from a series of "thorough and all-encompassing defeats" (p. 236). Is the narrative of Conway's early life really a story of defeat? Or is it perhaps a story of success? Conway felt that she had failed in several areas--in making her mother happy, in running Coorain--but were these quixotic battles, impossible to win? Do you feel, as she did, that she turned her back on her duty?

12. Jill Ker Conway has written: "The rise of democracy has enlarged the focus of interest in the lives of other people--from monarch, great general, and political leader to the ordinary person--someone like ourselves" (Written by Herself, p. vii). How does Conway shape her own story--that of an obscure, isolated young girl--into a narrative with wide social and historical implications?

13. How does Conway shape the plot of The Road from Coorain? Is it a romance, a story of material success, an odyssey, a spiritual or intellectual quest or the story of a conflict between mother and daughter?

14. Conway has written elsewhere about her environmental concerns. What is the role of nature in this narrative, and how does her own understanding of the natural world influence her intellectual development?

15. The Road from Coorain is a narrative about separation and the formation of a strongly bonded female personality. It is thus a story which runs counter to a current sentimental view of women's lives as networks of relationships. Is Conway's view persuasive?

Product Details

ISBN:
9780679724360
Author:
Conway, Jill Ker
Publisher:
Vintage Books USA
Location:
New York :
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Women
Subject:
Women's Studies
Subject:
Presidents
Subject:
Country life
Subject:
Australia/Oceania - Australia
Subject:
Australia
Subject:
Country life -- Australia.
Subject:
Australia & New Zealand - Australia
Subject:
Conway, Jill K. - Childhood and youth
Subject:
Biography-Women
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series:
Vintage Departures
Series Volume:
no. 560
Publication Date:
19900831
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Yes
Pages:
256
Dimensions:
8.00x5.22x.55 in. .43 lbs.

Other books you might like

  1. Breaking Clean
    Used Book Club Paperback $2.50
  2. A Woman's Education Used Trade Paper $3.50
  3. Breaking Clean
    Used Book Club Paperback $2.50
  4. A Voice from the Border Used Hardcover $3.50
  5. The Midwife's Apprentice
    Used Trade Paper $2.95
  6. Moorchild (96 Edition) Used Trade Paper $4.00

Related Subjects

Biography » Historical
Biography » Literary
Biography » Women
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » Australia » General
History and Social Science » World History » Australia and New Zealand

The Road from Coorain Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$4.95 In Stock
Product details 256 pages Vintage Books USA - English 9780679724360 Reviews:
"Review" by , "A remarkable memoir....A tale of 'guilt transformed into an intellectual calling,' the awakening at once of a heart and a historian."
"Review" by , "Sheer delight...A graceful, thoughtful, vibrantly detailed book...teeming with discoveries."
"Review" by , "A wonderful book...A fresh exploration of those eternal questions: Where am I from? How has that shaped me? Where do I belong?...A rare sensibility informs it."
spacer
spacer
  • back to top

FOLLOW US ON...

     
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.