Time and Place
Tomorrow I’m speaking on a panel at the Mornington Writers’ Festival. The topic is ‘Time and Place’ which is something that I feel I spend a lot of time writing about so it’s not a tough subject. How are we shaped by where we come from? When we change our homes, how do we settle into our new environment? And how long does it take for generations of immigrants to shrug off the old world and become part of the new?
Re-reading ‘Georgiana’ by Brenda Niall has dovetailed nicely with the ‘time and place’ issue. It’s a beautiful biography. I read it years ago when it first came out but one of my book clubs has picked it as their monthly read. Rather than rely on my memories, I pulled it off the shelf again and am so glad to revisit the story. Niall is a great biographer and captures the personalities of her subjects beautifully. Georgiana McCrae was the illegitmate daughter of a Scottish duke, a talented artist and an early settler in Melbourne when it was not much more than a colonial outpost on the banks of the Yarra. Born in 1804, her life spanned a century of phenomenal change. When she died in 1890, she had seen Melbourne transformed from a muddy frontier town to a modern city. I wonder if I lived as long as she did, if I would have the same sense of Melbourne’s transformation. It’s funny how when you’re at the centre of a story, it’s much harder to see the shape of the narrative or to get a sense of the passage of time.