Original date of publication: 1946
My edition: 1983 (Virago Modern Classics)
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: London, September 2011
The Roaring Nineties is set on the Australian frontier in the 1890s. Sally Gough is the wife of a gold miner, eking out a rough living in the goldfields of Western Australia. It’s a tough life these people live, certainly much different than ours is now; and it’s interesting to watch the characters grow, even as the Australian frontier changes with the advent of the railway and the growth of towns.
It’s a tough book to get through; bleak in many places. As such, it’s a bit of a slog. But despite that, I enjoyed this novel; it’s very realistic and true to the time period (even though I know nothing about colonial Australia or the business of gold prospecting). Sally seems very flat and devoid of emotion; I guess that life on the frontier makes people become stoic in that way. Her focus is her family and she turns out to be a tough, resilient person. Even though her marriage to her husband Morris frustrates her and she if offered the possibility of something more exciting, she proves herself to be very loyal and practical by sticking with her original promise. There’s also a covert feminist theme to this book; so many of the female characters are victims of the men on the goldfields, but Sally is the exception to this rule.
The Roaring Nineties is above all a social commentary culminating with the conflict between the alluvial miners and the big companies that sought to control them. It will be interesting to watch Sally and her family’s lives through the other two books in the series, Golden Miles and Winged Seeds. Apparently, Prichard based her story on the reminisces of two real people, who became the inspiration for Sally Gough and Dinny Quin. It’ll be interesting to see how the story develops.