If you haven’t read this Australian classic lately (or if you have never read it) do yourself a favor and pick up a copy.  Robbery Under Arms is a fantastic piece of fiction that boils all the bushranger legends of Ned Kelly, Ben Hall, “Mad Dog” Morgan, and Captain Moonlite into one sweeping narrative.  The language is a charming mixture of Dickensian and Australian English, and the pages come alive with stories that are both exciting and somewhat believable. ( I add the qualifier “somewhat” because this book is essentially a western, to use an American genre term, and westerns always require a suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader.)  I won’t go into the plot details here.  If you have read this book , or seen the film adaptations, you already know the story of Richard Marston and his descent into outlawry in nineteenth century New South Wales.  I will say the tale begins slowly since the author felt obligated to compose a lengthy moral sermon during the opening pages, likely because he realized the story would make bush ranging seem like so much fun! After those preliminaries are over, the tale really takes off. It is a lengthy read, and if you are like me, you are loathe to finish it.

One word of caution if you decide to purchase a copy of this book rather than get it at  your local library.  The edition I bought during my recent visit to Melbourne was obviously typeset from an uncorrected Optical Character Recognition scan of an earlier text.  As a result there are many annoying typographical errors.

This is the first of a series of reviews I intend to do on the fiction of Rolf Boldrewood.  I have been fortunate to get Plain Living; A Bush Idyll and The Miner’s Right through inter-library loan and I will review them as soon as I have finished.

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I look forward to your reviews on the other Rolf Boldrewood works. I feel guilty because as an Australian I should have read this famous book and also I haven't read any of his books!

Thanks for the review, Kim- this sounds really interesting. I have heard about Captain Marston but know very little about him, so I look forward to reading this one. Definitely sounds like the author wanted to warn us all against starting a career in bushranging before the story began!



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