Some artists paint with brush and pigment, and others use a rich vocabulary to produce lush illustrations of the factual and imaginary.  In the novel Coonardoo, Katherine Prichard pulls out all the stops in painting a portrait of a time and place so far removed from most of our experiences.  The setting is the remote grazing country of northwestern Australia and a fictional cattle station called Wytaliba.  The station was founded by Bessie Watt and her husband, but it was Bessie that made the place work by her iron will and years of devotion.  Her son, Hugh Watt eventually inherits the station, and with it the responsibility for watching over the native people who help run the expansive operation.  Among these people is Coonardoo, a beautiful Aboriginal woman with whom Hugh has a brief physical love affair, but a lasting platonic relationship that ends tragically.  All through this novel Prichard describes the countryside and the people with an almost poetic intensity, and it allows the reader to become completely immersed in this imaginary world.  I purchased this paperback during my recent stay in Narrabeen and just finished it now that I have returned home to Montana.  I liked this work more than Prichard's tale of the gold rush, The Roaring Nineties, primarily because the author did not indulge in lengthy sidetrack descriptions of class struggles and the like.  Coonardoo is a simple tale of a doomed love affair, and well worth your time.

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