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3.42  ·  Rating details ·  308 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
Coonardoo is the moving story of a young Aboriginal woman trained form childhood to be the housekeeper at Wytaliba station and, as such, destined to look after its owner, Hugh Watt. The love between Coonardoo and Hugh, which so shocked its readers when the book was first published in 1929, is never acknowledged and so, degraded and twisted in on itself, destroys not only C ...more
Paperback, 250 pages
Published June 4th 2002 by A&R Classics an Imprint of Harper Collins Australia (first published 1929)
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Aug 16, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: kindle
This is an intensely unpleasant book to read, but there's lots to talk about regarding it, so bare with me.

So, I came across this book because I realised I knew almost nothing about Australian literature, and my mum agreed that it was pretty obscure before crying, "Oh! But you know, at the start of the twentieth century there was a whole bunch of socialist women writers, Marxists, feminists, I think you'd really like them." She gave me an old textbook of hers that outlined some of these writers,
Julian Leatherdale
Having read Barnard-Eldershaw's Tomorrow and Tomorrow earlier this year, it was just a matter of time before I got round to reading Katharine Susannah Prichard's 'Coonardoo'. Serialised in the Bulletin in 1928, this controversial novel shared the inaugural Bulletin Prize with T&T in 1929. According to the introductory essay by Drusilla Modjeska, KSP was sojourning in the Kimberley in 1926 to finish her novel Haxby's Circus when she came into contact with Aboriginal Australia in the North-Wes ...more
Jul 10, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: australian
I'm a little obsessed with novels about white/Aboriginal interactions, so this didn't disappoint. Some of the writing is shockingly graphic for 1929, and the descriptions are crisp and tactile. The plot is a little meandering and changes pace dramatically for no apparent reason, but the characters are solid.
Aug 13, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I agree with the majority reviewers in that Coonardoo is ultimately racist in its depiction of Aboriginal people. Prichard's writing of the actual character Coonardoo I believe is voyeuristic - in all honesty, this book should be called Hugh, since the story is actually about him, and Coonardo is simply the archetypal female, a plot point to "Hugh's tragic life as a white man." 🙄 Their apparent "love" is not love but Hughs repressed lust for Coonardoo, which points to Prichard's theme of sexuali ...more
Jasmin Jane
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Of course, if published in present day Australia, this book would cause public outrage for its animalistic representation of Indigenous Australians. However, considering its time of publication, this book speaks leaps and bounds ahead of its time. The nature of the story is obviously not light-hearted, and it definitely maintains some consistent undertones throughout the novel of a kind of "downward spiral" which Hugh eventually endeavours upon.

On the note of language and description, Prichard i
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: onzimplybooks
Historical fiction is interesting but when it is also written in history (1929) it is challenging to engage with. Certainly the richness of DH Lawrence is not evident and the excitement of modern authors such as Connelly is absent. The social and racial overtones are overt and moralise the story. This is to be expected considering when it was written but it does indicate the beginnings of some thoughts of atonement over the invasion by the English in the minds of some fair thinking whites. This ...more
Nov 21, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
200 pages covering 50 years in which nothing happens. had to read this for class and even the teacher did not finish it.
Nov 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was forced to read this for my Australian Lit subject at uni. It was surprisingly addictive. Beautiful. Tragic.
Sep 13, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Couldn't finish this terrible book, don't know why they put it on a curriculum. Makes the students want to shoot themselves!!
Giorgi Baskhajauri
საინტერესო რომანია, კარგად არის დახატული განსხვავებულ ცივილიზაციათა დაპირისპირება(აბორიგენები და თეთრკანიანები) სიყვარულის თემაც ძალიან კარგია, თხრობა პოეტური და კარგია.
Mar 18, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The other reviews on here speak to the complexity of this work. Written by an avowed socialist, and one of the first Australian novels to treat our Indigenous people as human individuals, not to mention a stunningly sexual and honest work for its time, and a work that continues a strong trend of complex female characters in Aussie literature, Coonardoo is - to my mind - still an important part of Australia's literary history. To think only 30 years earlier the idea of "serious literature" in the ...more
Brittany Cooper
I felt unsatisfied once I finished with no resolution with the ending. I also found it hypocritical that a white woman was commenting on how a black woman would have been feeling
Jan 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spirituality
This remarkable work should have been on school English curriculums decades ago. For all that we are now prepared to talk about and beginning to discuss in Australian society, to still not have such a book as this widely known is a travesty. And I don’t merely mean from the point of view of “indigenous studies”.

The deep insights Katherine Susannah Prichard presented in her serialized novel in The Bulletin back in 1929, cover much that is in current debates and policy shifts of recent years. In p
Meg Dunley
Jan 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
It felt like a real privilege to read Katharine Susannah Prichard's book, Coonardoo which was written way back in 1929. She wrote this book when she went up to the Kimberley's in the North West area of Australia and stayed on a station, Turee. She was enamoured by what she observed as a writer and was inspired to write about this. What is most interesting, I found, was that she writes in the indigenous language. I am not sure if it is actually reflective of the actual dialect of the mob who woul ...more
Jan 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
I have read a lot of Pritchard many moons ago but never this one. It depicts the north of Western Australia in a way that shows its menace as well as its rugged beauty. This story of the relationship between a white property owner and the Aboriginal woman who was his childhood friend was considered scandalous in the 1920s, not because it wasn't common for men in the outback to use Aboriginal women sexually, but because it depicted a depth of feeling between the two. Tragically for both, the prev ...more
Oct 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed reading Coonardoo. It has some beautiful imagery of the Australian landscape. The book definitely has some issues, specifically, the derogatory terms used towards Indigenous Australians. Although it includes a lot of aspects of Indigenous culture, I wouldn't say it is a very reliable account. It may have been controversial at the time, but it is still very obviously written from a white woman's perspective, with Indigenous culture having a submissive role.

Nevertheless, it was s
Feb 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a book that in all probability is a white woman's view of the time in which she lived. It is honest and progressive but I did find it difficult to analyse the truth in what the author portrays as a forbidden love between Coonardoo and Hugh. She comes across as subservient and he as a mama's boy who uses this black woman over whom he could wield an influence as opposed to women of his own race. Of course, the context would be better appreciated in 1929 when the book was written. Still, an ...more
**sigh** Really, it just could not end any other way...

A love across race was not looked kindly at the time. A white man in love with a gin (Aboriginal)? God Forbid! No wonder that this book was not published until a later date. What a controversy it would have been. Prichard was definitely ahead of her time.

It was sad to read the different struggles and devotion on both sides. However, am always happy with the Aussie outback nature descriptions. There are none better!! And since it's nearly Aus
Dec 13, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting, thought it was based on a true story until I read the last page, that Coonardoo's death was symbolic of the meaning of Wytaliba - the fire is all burnt out. I don't believe that this story is indicative of the relationships between white men and black women in outback Australia.
Aug 17, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful Australian classic but such a sad story about a forbidden love between a white man and an Aboriginal girl.
Helenna Dohle
Loved the book! "Looking up at the stars she found herself pinned to the earth by swarming currents..." is such a beautiful way to of speaking.
Oct 11, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
I liked Coonardoo a lot more than I expected to. It is quite sad but written very nicely.
A highly curious novel relating to race and gender in early colonised Australia. The suppression of Hugh, arguably the protagonist despite the title, is particularly interesting.
Melisende d'Outremer
Jul 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australia
A story of the darker side to Australian history from the perspective of a young aboriginal woman.
Jun 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was banned in the 1920s because of the depiction of the relationship between an aboriginal woman and English-Australian pastoralist.
Sonia Chan
Jan 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best love story that I've ever read.
rated it liked it
Mar 29, 2014
Rose Swindells
rated it really liked it
Nov 05, 2014
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500 Great Books B...: Coonardoo - Katherine S. Prichard 1 5 Jul 13, 2014 05:37PM  
  • Maurice Guest
  • A Little Bush Maid (Billabong, #1)
  • The Family at Misrule (Woolcots, #2)
  • Dark Palace
  • Power Without Glory
  • Last Drinks
  • The Barrakee Mystery (Bony, #1)
  • Johnno
  • The Timeless Land
  • For Love Alone
  • The Jesus Man
  • The Eye of the Storm
  • They're a Weird Mob
  • Benang: From the Heart
  • Tirra Lirra by the River
  • Carpentaria
  • For the Term of His Natural Life
Katharine Susannah Prichard was born in Levuka, Fiji in 1883, and spent her childhood in Launceston, Tasmania, before moving to Melbourne, where she won a scholarship to South Melbourne College. Her father, Tom Prichard, was editor of the Melbourne Sun newspaper. She worked as a governess and journalist in Victoria then travelled to England in 1908. Her first novel, The Pioneers (1915), won the Ho ...more
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