A Woman’s Place is a family saga orbiting around Barragunyah, an isolated outback property haunted by an ancient spirit.
As members of the Authors’ Lounge would know, ideas for stories emerge from strange places in the psyche. The idea for this book came about when I wondered if the land itself could be portrayed as a protagonist, rather than simply being a place where events happen.
To write this effectively as a novel-length work, I knew I would need to show a particular place over an extended period, framed within an historical background to illustrate the progression of time.
The title of the book comes from an underlying perception that Barragunyah is a woman’s place, although with quite different connotations to the condescending way the term is often used.
The main characters in the novel are strong, resourceful women, and the bond between mothers and daughters is significant. At an ancient level, the energy of this land is also female. Males are not wanted there, they do not feel comfortable, and can even be in danger. This situation leads to unexpected twists in the story.
In terms of historical fiction, the novel spans the end of the 19th century through into the late 20th century, encapsulating the lives of five generations of women in one family.
Through these central characters, readers encounter the influences of colonialism, the tragedy of wars, the changes in women’s rights, and the myriad ways in which historical events background the lives of ordinary people.
However, just as Barragunyah is far more than a farm, the novel itself is far more than historical fiction. With elements of magical realism through the intrigues of an ancient spirit with her own agenda, and a touch of Australian Gothic by way of an isolated heroine trapped in a bleak, once-grand house, this is a book that crosses genres.
The story begins when Julia, the main character, comes to Barragunyah after her grandmother’s death to prepare the place for sale, and is trapped by rising floodwaters.
Alone in a derelict house without power, and unable to contact anyone, she passes the time reading the diaries and letters of the women who once called the outback property home. When the ancient spirit known as Mary appears, the borders between then and now begin to dissolve. Swept again and again into Barragunyah’s past, Julia drifts towards madness.
While Julia and her dilemma anchors the past to the present, it is Alice who is the first of Barragunyah’s women. Migrating to colonial New South Wales in the 1880s, and arriving at Barragunyah as a new bride, she is followed in due course by her descendants Ellen, Gina, Annie and finally Julia, who bears the burden and sorrow of being the last of Barragunyah’s women.
It is important to me that all my characters are true to their historical periods. To make them believable, I also ensure they have valid motivations for behaving as they do.
My goal for A Woman’s Place is for it to reach a wider adult readership than the title suggests.
The connections between humans and the land we inhabit and shape (and which shapes us), and our place in the movement of time and history are universal experiences which invite reflection by all thoughtful readers.
I’ve worked as a commercial artist, a farmer, a teacher, and an academic, all of which feeds into my life-long passion for writing. I hold a PhD in Creative Writing and have published five books prior to A Woman’s Place. I grew up in Sydney, then lived for years in a valley with cows and horses. These days I live on a mountain with peacocks and bush turkeys.
If you want to grab some copies of my book, you can check it out at My Amazon Page.