Monday Memories: Australia: A Biography of A Nation by Phillip Knightley


This is the fourth of my Monday Memories series of posts. In these posts, I pull a book off my shelf, somewhat randomly, and tell you a bit about it. It's not a review of the book so much as a memory of the book, a bit about what might have been going on in my life when I read it, and my thoughts on who might like this book. 

The Book

Australia: A Biography of A Nation by Phillip Knightley, A Vintage Book from Random House. Printed and bound in Great Britain by Bookmarque Ltd., Croydon, Surrey 2001. Copyright 2000.

Why This Book?

I was perusing my bookcase that, among other books has my "Australiana" from our trips Down Under, and this book caught my eye. And I thought, "Well, that's the book for this week."

What's This Book About?

From memory:
I remember this book being a mixture of national history and the author's own memories of growing up in Australia. I believe there's a bit of discussion in this book about the UK still being "home" to many adult Australians during the author's childhood, even if it was a home many of them had never seen. I know I really enjoyed reading this book as an overview of and a peek into Australia and her history by an Australian. The mix of history and the author's personal memories made for an absorbing read.

From perusing the book after I pulled it off the shelf:
Phillip Knightley was a Australian journalist and writer. Born in Sydney in 1929, he spent time in Fiji early in his career, and later in life split his time between Sydney, London and Goa, India. The book starts out, in part, as Knightley's attempt to answer the question of why America and Australia, both former British colonies, turned out so differently. As I read further though, it became much more than this. 

There is a lot of focus in the book about Australia's British past, and how Australia has grown away from the UK while still feeling a deep kinship with that kingdom half a world away. Australia was published in 2000 just ahead of the country's celebration of 100 years as a nation. As an American, it seemed to me to be Knightley's attempt to explain Australia to Australians. Many in Australia, like my newly settled family who we were visiting when I bought this book, hadn't lived through that history. 

What Was Going On In My Life When I Read This?

I picked this book up in the Brisbane airport as my now husband (then life partner) and I were returning from our first trip to Australia in the early 2000's. My partner's mother, along with his sister and her family, had moved to Australia a few years before to start a new life in a new country. Our visit was full of firsts for the two of us. Everything about Brisbane and Australia seemed so new. I think that newness led me to pick this book up off the shelf of the airport bookstore. 

My husband and I love to travel and with family now established in Australia we've returned a number of times. 

I like to read when traveling, and am one of those people who always has a book or my Kindle in hand on an airplane. I remember that I had brought my copy of A Confederacy of Dunces with me on that trip out, and had finished it between the plane ride and the first few days lolling about as my body clock adjusted to the time change. So I needed a new book to read for the flight back, and Knightley's Australia filled that need. 

Given the length of this book I'm sure I finished it when we got back to the States, but I am also sure it helped provide an enjoyable diversion on our long transit from Brisbane back to the US Midwest. 

Why Would Someone Like This Book?

If you have an interest in Australia, particularly as it relates to it's British past this is the book for you.

So that's my "Monday Memories" book post for this week. Are you a travel reader like me? Leave a comment below.