Synopses & Reviews
In this sensual, witty, and startlingly original first novel, Jean Finnegan searches for her place in a tumultuous world wracked by the Great Depression and the beginning of World War II. Carrie Tiffany captures the frailty and beauty of the human condition and vividly evokes the hope and disappointment of an era.
Billowing dust and information, the government "Better Farming Train" slides through the wheat fields and small towns of Australia, bringing advice to the people living on the land. The train is staffed by irresistibly eccentric agricultural and domestic experts, from Sister Crock, the prim head of "women's subjects," to Mr. Ohno, the Japanese chicken specialist, to Robert Pettergree, a scientist with an unusual taste for soil. Amid the swaying cars full of cows, pigs, and wheat, a strange and swift seduction occurs between Robert and Jean. In an atmosphere of heady scientific idealism they settle in the impoverished Mallee farmland with the ambition of transforming the land through science.
In luminous prose, Tiffany writes about the challenges of farming, the character of small towns, the stark and terrifying beauty of the Australian landscape, and the fragile relationships among man, science, and nature. Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living is a passionate and heartbreaking novel from an astonishing new writer.
"The dusty farms of 1930s Australia are the backdrop for this rich and knowing debut novel about science, love and the limits of progress. The 'Better-Farming Train,' commissioned by the Agricultural Department of the Province of Victoria, travels throughout the country educating agricultural communities. Behind '[f]ourteen cars of stock and science and produce' is the women's car, home to Sister Crock, stern infant welfare teacher; Mary Maloney, cooking lecturer; and Jean Cunningham, the curious, headstrong narrator and sewing instructor. Jean avoids the men in the sitting car, where everyone gathers during long train rides. About love, she says: 'I am not looking for it.' Nonetheless, love finds her in the form of Robert Pettergree, who has the unusual ability to identify the origin of any handful of soil by its taste. Robert's belief in scientific progress exhibited in his eight maxims, the Rules for Scientific Living is unshakable. Determined to prove his theories, Robert buys a farm for Jean and himself in the vast, impoverished wheat district called the Mallee. Despite drought, mice, economic depression and war, Jean and Robert struggle to fulfill the promises of science and love. Acclaimed Australian story writer Tiffany writes in a deceptively simple style, notable for its craft and heartbreaking clarity; that as well as her unusual yet utterly believable period characters make for a stunning debut." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"In this unusual and luminous first novel, Tiffany writes beautifully about the stark landscape and the even starker relationships between men and women." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Lapidary prose and keen historical feeling make it hard to believe this is a first novel." Kirkus Reviews
"[T]this is one to seek out and savor....[A]n understated, sensual work that makes the reader glad. I can think of no better book to carry outside to read as warm spring sunshine awakens the skin." Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Read it to be transported out of yourself into another landscape across time and space. Read it to absorb the intuitive wisdom we get from our best fiction. Read it to grow." Kansas City Star
Sensual, witty, and startlingly original, Tiffany's debut novel about a young woman, her passionate relationship with an agricultural expert, and their efforts at scientific living marks the arrival of a great new voice in fiction.
About the Author
Carrie Tiffany has won numerous prizes in Australia, including the Victorian Premier's Award for an Unpublished Manuscript and the Australian Book Review Short Fiction Award. In her early twenties she worked as a park ranger in the red center and now lives in Melbourne, where she works as an agricultural journalist. The Sydney Morning Herald named Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living debut of the year.
Table of Contents
1. The Better-Farming Train Brings Science to the Man-on-the-Land
2. Frank Finnegan's Fruit
3. The Folly Cow
4. A Lecturette on Good Soil Husbandry
5. The Honey Car
6. Three Incidents at Jeparit
7. Welcome to Wycheproof
8. The Experimental Kitchen
9. Mr. Ohno's Gift
10. Lillian's Taste for Soil
11. Afternoon Tea with Doris McKettering
12. Some Thoughts on Fencing
13. Big Ben from the Air
14. A Trainload of Superphosphate
15. Sister Crock Proclaims the Babies Thin
17. Mr. Frogley Blows In with the Drift
18. Wing Fook's Mare
19. The Death of Folly
20. A Dodgy Merchant and His Dog
21. Sewing for the Fuller Figure
22. At War Again
24. The One-In, All-In Train Brings War to the Man-on-the-Land
25. Mr. Ohno's Letters
26. At the Commercial
27. A Night of Soil
28. Sister Crock Proclaims the Men Fit
29. The Mallee Sunset