Book #58: Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence, by Doris Pilkington

Another book crossed off the reading list this weekend! Making progress sure does feel good.

Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence was a book I stumbled upon in a quest to find a book dealing with colonial issues in Australia for my postcolonial literature class. I was vaguely familiar with the story because I saw the film adaptation when it came out more than a decade ago, but I was interested to delve into the story with a fresh perspective.

Though this book tells an incredible story, the writing leaves something to be desired. Pilkington tells the story of her mother and two aunts who, as the half-caste daughters of Aboriginal mothers and white fathers, were taken away from their homes to a native settlement where they could be educated under a Western (and white) system. Molly, Gracie, and Daisy were ages 14, 11, and 8 when they were taken from their homes, but after spending a few days at the settlement, decided to escape and walk back to their home across Australia.

Needless to say, the book casts light on some pretty disturbing facts of colonial Australia, but my biggest issue was that I didn’t think the writing matched up to the gravity of the story itself. Pilkington takes a storytelling approach to this true tale, so it reads more like a narrative than a true story. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, but I felt like it demeaned a bit of the importance of this journey. Pilkington tries to cram Australia’s colonial history into the book before she begins her family’s story, and it all feels a bit rushed and superficial.

After reading the book, though, I would be interested to watched the film again for comparison. While I’m not in love with the book, I was thankful for the perspective on a section of colonial history I know very little about.

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