Diary of a Weekend Farmer by Elizabeth Jolley

I’ve not read anything by Elizabeth Jolley before, and perhaps “Diary of a Weekend Farmer” was a strange place to start. Nonetheless, these selected extracts from her journal have the bare immediacy of poetry, and indeed, include poems.

The paintings by Evelyn Kotai reproduced in the book were haunting and are part of the strange appeal of the book.

This is nostalgia without rose-tinted glases (and is that only possible when you take text written at the time?). Yet there is a sense of appreciation for the experience described. The weekend farm was not home. It was a place of observation and re-evaluation — of the self as much as anything. It seemed to have stayed alien to Elizabeth.

I chose this book almost randomly from the Biography section of the local library for the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge. It turns out, Elizabeth’s weekend farm was in the hills east of Perth, country I know from childhood visits to family. It gave me an odd feeling to see this familiar place and way of life through a stranger’s eyes.

Perhaps the most disconcerting element of the book was Elizabeth’s failure to celebrate the experience, to colour it with a sort of “don’t you wish you’d be so blessed?” which many writers are unable to resist. I guess they want their efforts to be appreciated, their choices validated. Elizabeth simply presents snatches from her journal and the intimacy of those snatches is the book’s appeal — or maybe that was me adding my memories to the skeleton of her story.

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