Half a Lifetime, by Judith Wright. First read 15th April to 17th April 2017. No rating.
I’m aiming to (a) review a book every day this week (this being day two) and (b) review every book I read this month! Today’s issue – Half a Lifetime, by Judith Wright.
I had to read this book in preparation for my speech exam, and found it particularly interesting. It opened my eyes to some elements of Judith’s life that I didn’t know/hadn’t thought about before.
It’s always difficult writing reviews on autobiographies, I find. This is because I can’t critique the plot without critiquing a life. This story in particular was exceptionally personal, making my job even more difficult. Perhaps autobiographies aren’t meant to be critiqued, but rather to be pondered on!
Half a Lifetime is the story of one of Australia’s best known poets, Judith Wright. It shows her childhood, her life as a young adult before, after, and during the War, and explores her relationship with the philosopher Jack McKinney.
One of the things I particularly enjoyed about this book was its friendly mixture of storytelling and philosophy. Judith showed the way that her philosophy and worldview was created, and even in the beginning stages of her life she showed how that time influenced her beliefs later in life. I suppose it goes to show that even the earliest events in our life affect our mind and consequently our worldview. For Judith Wright, these events were the mistreatment of the Aboriginal people who worked for her family. It was the illness of her mother which meant she was largely left to herself, free to roam the bush and be told off for being ‘unladylike’ by her family. All of these experiences led Judith Wright to be a campaigner for Aboriginal land rights in later years, spurred on by her personal witness of prejudice.
It’s interesting to me that Judith travelled Europe several years before the outbreak of WWII, and saw what was coming. However, when trying to warn those back home in Australia of the clear future, she was ignored or laughed at. Wrapped in our comfortable bubbles of the things we know (or think we know), we don’t like to peek outside and have a look outside at the things we may not know about, at the future which we fervently ignore. Given the current unrest in the world today, it’s interesting to ponder the fact that even today we refuse to see two steps in front of us.
Yet another thing that fascinated me was how Judith knew very early on that she wanted to be a poet. She was sure of this fact. So when it came time for school, she did wonderfully in English, and not-so-good at maths. She wanted to go to Uni, so she studied several different units in literature and history, rather than a whole degree.
This book was very thought provoking and very personal. The writing style is written in Judith Wright’s unique way; there are commas where there shouldn’t be and none where there should, as well as plenty of run-on sentences. It also has large gaps and silences in places, particularly her university years. Sometimes it jumps ahead a few years, or back, but not enough to make it too confusing. However, all this serves to make it feel more like an intimate conversation than a book!
Would I recommend this book? I’m really not sure. I haven’t really touched on Judith’s worldview, which is a whole topic on itself. I suppose I would suggest reading it if you’re interested in her poetry and what influenced it. It’s certainly an interesting look into one remarkable poet’s mind!
I am a fan of Judith’s poetry, and so reading this book really was an insight into her whole world. I struggle reading her prose because of the sentence structure, but this book was so personal that I barely noticed the grammar.
Have you read any of her poetry? I’d highly recommend it!
Love, Emmeline 🙂