Review of The Lone Protestor


It was thanks to Yvonne Perkins’ review of The Lone Protestor: A M Fernando in Australia and Europe by Fiona Paisley that I read A M Fernando’s story. It’s a fascinating one, and just as fascinating is the way Fiona Paisley pieces together, interprets and presents the fragments of his life that have survived in the historical record.

Yvonne places The Lone Protestor in the field of Transnational History. It’s a field I’m not familiar with, but I am intrigued with one of its key issues: identity.

I want to review The Lone Protestor for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, but the issue of identity is one I’m going to come back to.

Fiona Paisley embeds Fernando’s story in the wider story of late nineteenth and early twentieth century Australian and world history. In fact, Fernando is like a shadow moving through these times. We follow him, but he is less distinct than the events and conflicts he lives through. These are well researched and clearly described. Fernando is the blank canvas on which we put our experience and concerns.

And this is the issue with identity that I struggled with through the book. Fiona Paisley is a respectful and conscientious author, but there just wasn’t enough in the historical record to give me a sense of Fernando’s personality. I kept searching for it–and all I found was a lost soul. Perhaps that was the truth I needed to find in The Lone Protestor?


2 Replies to “Review of The Lone Protestor”

  1. The sense I got about Fernando as a person was that he was persistent, fiercely independent and very focussed. he wasn't concerned about fitting in. It was these qualities that enabled him to wage his own protest for so long. Yet beyond this 'impression' I too was left with a sense of not knowing Fernando. I treat this book more as a history than a biography.

    "Fernando is like a shadow moving through these times" – well said. It is frustrating to read a book about such an interesting person yet be left knowing so little about him. Yet this book demonstrates to the reader that archives actually capture a very small proportion of human lives. It is so easy to get the impression that archives store everything of importance concerning people's lives from reading biographies of people who were well recognised in their own life time. Yet there are many people who do historically significant things but whose records are not captured in archives.

    1. That's a good point. If I think of the book as a history and not a bio, then I'm really satisfied by it. Being West Aus Catholic, I was particularly interested in the questioning of the New Norcia myth.

      Thanks for sharing The Lone Protestor with me in your review 🙂