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Friday 14 August 2020

Review: Goldfields Girl

This is a fictional account of the early life of Clara Saunders based on her own unfinished manuscript. 

It covers approximately two years from April 1892 of the gold rush era, through to March 1894

The Author’s Note at the beginning, gives us a strong introduction, addressing the background and origins of the manuscript and how the book came about.

The reader steps right into the life of fourteen year-old Clara, who with Mother and her older sister, set out from Brisbane to Western Australia to support Clara’s sister Mary and husband.
They own the Hotel in the gold mining town of Southern Cross and are expecting their fifth child.

Clara’s memories are clear, precise and very detailed as she recalls the incredible adventure on which she embarked. There she met Jack, her first love. It is a time of parties, music from tin whistles, banjos and accordions; sing-alongs, picnics and racing festivals.

Jack works for his father as water carrier to the dry areas of the diggings. Lack of water is the greatest problem. Clara and Jack become very close, spending all their spare time together.

In September 1892, when the richest reef of gold is discovered by Arthur Bailey and his friend William Ford, a flood of goldminers moves into a new town which they name Coolgardie. Another hotel goes up to accommodate the influx. Clara agrees to join the single female cook working there. She takes with her, Mother’s First Aid bible which proves to be more valuable than gold.

A second reef – a mile long of pure gold, is found close to Coolgardie. With this rush, the English girl Florrie turns up, looking for adventure and excitement. Both girls prove tough, resilient, and extremely hard working; able to stand up to the rough men and their indiscreet language. A friendship quickly forms.

Recorded recollections beautifully transferred by Elaine Forrestal into visual images, reveal the strength and perseverance exercised by all during those difficult, early Australian gold rush years. The camaraderie between men is made visible. Life is frequently tumultuous, for competition and dissent, typhoid and dysentery are rife. Camp life – descriptive and real, the good and bad, is presented in perfect prose.

The end of 1893 brings great change and additional dangers and threats, as criminals, conmen and individuals with no respect for women, pass through the mining towns. This danger finds Jack, shattering Clara’s life and rounding off her story.

There is a two-page informational reference to Clara’s life after Jack. This interesting addition gives answers to questions on what happened to Clara afterwards, that readers will enjoy discovering at the end of this well-told Australian story.

Title: Goldfields Girl
Author: Elaine Forrestal
Publisher: Fremantle Press, $16.99
Publication Date: May 2020
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781925816495
For ages: 10 - 14
Type: Historical Fiction/Biography