Two exemplary recent Australian releases treat geography as character - the highly original and witty debut Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany, and The Secret River by the 2001 Orange Prize winner, Kate Grenville.
Set in 1930s Victoria, Everyman is narrated by Jean Cunningham, the young, curious and courageous sewing teacher on the “Better-Farming Train” which travels throughout the country, bringing advice to agricultural communities. Love comes in the form of Robert, an idealistic soil scientist with the rare ability to identify the origin of soil by taste, and who adheres unyieldingly to his Rules for Scientific Living.
The Secret River on the other hand, is inspired by Grenville’s own family history and the early settlement of New South Wales. William Thornhill and his family must struggle for a delicate coexistence with the native population along the savage Hawkesbury River.
Landscape is far more than mere setting. Whether harsh or lush, beneficent or punishing, it drives the plots and leaves indelible marks in the lives of these characters.