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The Road From Coorain

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  6,868 ratings  ·  359 reviews
One women's journey from a childhood in Australia's outback to adulthood as a successful American career woman. The Road From Coorain is about Everywoman, for it is about childhood loneliness, anguished parent-child relationships, dawning sensibility, discovering a vocation, and finding one's own sense of self.
Hardcover, 238 pages
Published April 15th 1989 by Knopf (first published 1989)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Chrissie
Apr 11, 2014 Chrissie rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chrissie by: Lynne
A good book about growing up in the outback of Australia during the 30s. It is this part of the book that most people like. I did enjoy the description of the terrain and vegetation and climate, the beauty of the place, its solitude and isolation. The author grew up at a distance of a 10 hour car ride west of Sydney. This part is through the eyes of the author as a child. It is about drought and hardship and the death of her father, a hard scrabble life still filled with good memories. This part ...more
Jeanette
Poignant and lyrically expressive memoir for the first 13 or 14 years of this woman's (Jill Ker Conway)life was the focus of the first half of this book. That portion is entire 5 star breathless. Stark, real, sharp, luxuriant- the natural Western plains of Australia girl child world.

But after the move to Sydney (off of Coorain sheep country isolation)it cuts to her latter years of schooling and family life; then every year of progressive aging becomes closer to a highly aesthetic intellectual an
...more
Kate
Jul 25, 2011 Kate rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: feminists, intellectuals, nature lovers, and people interested in family dynamics
Recommended to Kate by: My high school English teacher and my memoir writing teacher.
A fantastic and engaging memoir showing how Jill Ker Conway's early years on the sheep farm in Coorain, Australia helped shape her into the academic she later became here in the United States.

This book starts off beautifully with in depth descriptions of the harsh Australian outback, a place I've never been, but would like to go, and through Ms. Conway's words I was there. Then the book ends with Jill Ker Conway leaving for America at age 26. I enjoyed the fact that education was fun for her, no
...more
Emily
I spent a while this weekend reading The Road from Coorain, a memoir popular about fifteen years ago that I'd found around the office. In it, Jill Ker Conway, an academic and the first female president of Smith College, tells the story of her youth and education in Australia up to the day she left for America at age 26.

The first third of the book, in which she describes her life on a sheep ranch in a remote part of New South Wales, is what makes this book worthwhile. Conway never knew a child ot
...more
Michael
Excellent memoir of the outback childhood and Sydney schooling of a woman who became noted as a historian, feminist, and President of Smith College.

The first third about Conway's pre-teen years on an 18,000 acre sheep farm in remote New South Wales in the 30's was most satisfying to me for its vibrant evocation of the beauties and struggles of rural family life. The isolation of their ranch encouraged self reliance, and when her brothers were sent off to school, she came to work closely with he
...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly

A memoir that is crying out for a sequel--what happened to her in the U.S.? To her old mother whom she had left in Australia?

The author was both rich and poor as a child. Rich, because her father who was a world war one veteran managed to acquire a vast landholding in New South Wales; and poor, because the family itself (husband, wife and three kids) had to work on the land, unlike landowners elsewhere in the world who had slaves, serfs or peasants to work for them. Her father died early and one
...more
Jonathan
Solid memoir on growing up in 40s Australia, first in the Outback on a sheep farm that nearly collapses due to a long drought, then in Sydney as she tries to adjust to life a smart, pretty woman in a very chauvinistic academi world. She loses some important people way too early, and her mom begins to lose her grip on reality.

I enjoyed the book and it was well written. I definitely liked it better when it was in Coorain, the sheep farm her parents bought and settled about 10 hours west of Sydney.
...more
Cherie
I enjoyed reading this story very much, but I have to admit that I liked the first half of the story much better than the last half. I have had a hard time trying to figure out why though. I feel that it was more because of the information about Australia and life on the sheep ranch and conditions then, than the more mundane times of an academic in Sydney. It feels wrong to make this comparison, but it is the truth for me.

The isolation and desolation endured by the young woman and her family in
...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Feb 26, 2013 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Ultimate Reading List
This is the memoir of a woman who grew up on an Australian sheep farm and would go on to become the first woman president of Smith College. I started this book expecting to read a story about the Australian outback and got that--and a lot more. Yes, the picture of growing up on a isolated sheep "station" in the forties was certainly interesting. Conway starts with the landscape, giving a picture of the flat and vast vistas, the endless periodic droughts in the arid, ecologically fragile land and ...more
Lissa Notreallywolf
I loved this book because of the writing, and since I didn't read the jacket, I had no idea who the author was at first. I was reading it in the same way I read My Brilliant Career, to which it has been compared. Aside from the setting in Australia, I found a resonance between the two books, which aside from the setting are both about intelligent women in a society which does not approve of that combination. Another thing that struck me was how the author's perspective on her mother shifts-in th ...more
Ryan Toh
The Road from Coorain is an memoir written by Jill Ker Conway detailing her life as a child on the outback of Australia moving to the city. Her young life has numerous obstacles, from droughts to family tragedies. The author had led a fascinating life; I learned much about living in the outback - raising sheep and obtaining one's resources independently - and her story of growing up as a strong, intellectual woman in a chauvinistic age powerful.

The memoir is well written; as a memoir, it appears
...more
Vanessa
The Road from Coorain is a heart touching memoir that sweeps you away to places that some could only imagine. Jill Ker Conway writes her life story in such a way that really captures everyone and every memory. Every aspect of her childhood, down to the smell of the flowers at her countryside house, is described in a beautiful organized way.

From the beginning you are thrust into countryside Australia, where the people out there hardly ever see other human beings. Where cattle is scarce but sheep
...more
karl
This is Jill Conway’s autobiography covering her Australian youth to her age 25 in 1959 when she left for graduate school at Harvard (and ultimately a Ph.D. in history and following that a 10-year stint as President of Smith College). Growing up in the bush (outback) about 500 miles from Sydney on a sheep ranch she was an avid reader. What books she has read makes one’s own list an embarrassment. The first half of the book intertwines drought and economic despair as well as intellectual growth. ...more
Jeanette
Jan 30, 2008 Jeanette rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All
"Recollections of a harsh and beautiful journey into adulthood..."

I remember this autobiography for the decription of Australia. Jill is born to parents who have pioneered a sheep station. They struggle against the seasons and lonliness. Hill is home schooled. Her brothers left for boarding school and WWII. She had to be a "hand." When her father was killed in a stocktank ,her Mother had to admit failure -- so they moved to the city with disasterous results.

Australian women and men were suppose
...more
Ksenija
even if jill ker conway hadn't distinguished herself as the first female president of smith college,i would still highly recommend this book. this is a memoir of her first 25 years growing up in australia's bush country and eventually moving to sydney. it is startling to read about conditions and a lifestyle that seem more suited to the 1800s, rather than the mid 20th-century, and i definitely have a tinge of envy that as a seven-year-old, ker conway was helping her dad to herd sheep on horsebac ...more
Sharon Zink
The author describes in wonderful detail her life as a child growing up on a station in the outback of Australia. The autobiography continues until she leaves Australia for Harvard University. It takes awhile to get into the first chapter, but before the end of that chapter I was hooked. This book made me decide that I am not at all educated. Kind of uncomfortable.
Amy Varner
I really enjoyed this autobiography. It is not usually a genre I like to read. My US history background and my life long love of frontier history and fiction were both satisfied. Women like Jill Kerr Conway helped pave the way for women in academia.
Abby Rombalski
I was assigned to read this book in 1998 as pre-reading material before college. At that time, I bought it, read part of it, and promptly put it down; I did not relate to the text and felt no need to continue. Over 10 years of traveling experience later, and especially with the recent trip to Australia, it finally meant quite a bit to read it cover-to-cover. It weaves through some beautiful geographical text about New South Wales, paired with the journey of a young feminist woman trying to balan ...more
Galen Johnson
A biography of the early years in Australia of Jill Ker Conway, a smart young woman raised on a sheep farm in the desolate, unpopulated outback of Australia then educated at private school in Sydney and, later, at the University of Sydney. A careful observation of her family as they deal with the hardships of farming and the climate of Australia, and of the difficulties of a woman pursuing an education and a career in the middle of the 20th Century. Well and carefully written, interesting and di ...more
Peter Tillman
I first read The Road from Coorain not long after it was published, liked it a lot then, and just finished rereading it. It's a first rate memoir of a girlhood in an isolated sheep station in western New South Wales in the 1930s, the loss of her father in an extended drought, the family's move to Sydney, her struggles as a "bush child" in the metropolis, the loss of her brother in a car wreck, her coming-of-age through education, and her mother's declining health. The book ends in 1960, as she i ...more
Linda
I learned a lot about Australia! Jill Ker was raised on a farm in the outback of Australia, where her friends were the farm hands on their sheep ranch. Her book details both the beauty and the harshness of the land. You get a real sense of the vastness of the landscape and the brutality of the desert. The family does well for the first 6 or 8 years on the farm, with yearly rainfall and good decisions in raising their sheep. Jill works like a farm hand when she is only 7 - 9 years old, herding sh ...more
 Barb Bailey
The Road from Coorain is a very good read. Jill Conway writes beautifully about her childhood and growing up in the Australian outback. I learned a lot about the country , it's droughts, and the rugged people who run sheep farms and why sheep farming is popular there. Conway struggles with some hardships, works hard, excels, and eventually comes to the USA. She becomes the 1st woman president of Smith College and an excellent author. 4 stars
Alex  Wolff
When I started teaching 10th Grade English last year, I taught this because it was on hand, and I didn't anything planned yet. On it's own merits, Its a bildungsroman that teaches a great deal about life on an Australian ranch from 1920-1950. Therefore, the plot is rather thin. My students were creative with their insults for how much they despised this memoir. Once I stopped teaching it, they enjoyed my class instead of loathing it.
Mmars
Always intended to read more of Ker Conway but never have. Her accomplishments and path in life are clearly impressive. I was hooked instantly. Read this in my late twenties. I hadn't been aware of the Australian drought before this book. Descriptions of the hard and desolate landscape her childhood lived through still hover in my brain. An inspirstional memoir of resilience by a very bright woman.
Eve
This was my first autobiography, and I discovered it as a miniseries on PBS. I found that I related a lot to Jill in feeling out of place in one's skin and environment. Her anecdotes and hardships made me both laugh and sigh. Plus, talk about visuals. I felt like I was in the Australian Outback with her. This is a must read for women.
Kate
I don't usually read autobiographies, but this one was a real page-turner... The author has led a fascinating life. I found her descriptions of the Australian outback entrancing, and her story of growing up as a strong woman in a chauvinistic age understated and powerful.
Linda
In preparation for an upcoming trip to Australia, I am reading what I can find. Recommended by a friend who had visited Australia, this book certainly fit the bill. Ker Conway's memoir, which takes her from childhood until her mid twenties when she leaves Australia for good, gave me a good look at life in Australia from the thirties into the fifties. Ker Conway's early years were spent on a huge and isolated sheep farm, where she saw no children other than her two older brothers. A move to Sydne ...more
Jennifer
Jan 18, 2014 Jennifer rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jennifer by: Fauntella Rutherford via Sandra Rutherford
Shelves: autobiograhpy
Jill Ker Conway's well-written autobiography is the author's personal consideraton of the many conflicts she encountered during the first decades of her life: man versus nature as in her family's rugged life on a sheep ranch in the Australian outback, woman versus woman (the author verus her mother during much of the book) and woman versus herself (when this talented woman battles her inner demons with relationships, a class system, a world where women do not hold positions of power, and decisio ...more
Tom
I imagine any number of memoirs have covered similar territory, but it is Conway's tone of controlled passion and understated drama that give this book a poignant dignity lacking in so many others.
Maria M
This book was dreadful ... I only read it because someone on my book club chose it.. Very predictable and not very interesting.
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Jill Ker Conway, AC (born 9 October 1934) is an Australian-American author. Well known for her autobiographies, in particular her first memoir, The Road from Coorain. She was also Smith College's first woman president, from 1975–1985, and now serves as a Visiting Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2004 she was designated a Women's History Month Honoree by the National Women ...more
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“Her ideas were expressions of her inability to accept her own personal tragedy and her quest for some certainty on which she could rest a troubled spirit. Her her lack of education was a real handicap, because she had no historical or philosophical perspective from which to analyze her own experience of grief and loss. Because we lived in a cultural wasteland of suburbia, there were no schools or evening classes she might have attended which could offer an intellectually disciplined approach to her quest. Nor were there any churches which might have offered comfort through the beauty of their liturgy.” 1 likes
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