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Poor Fellow My Country

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  164 ratings  ·  18 reviews
In Poor Fellow, My Country, Xavier Herbert returns to the region made his own in Capricornia: Northern Australia. Ranging over a period of some six years, the story is set during the late 1930s and early 1940s; but it is not so much a tale of this period as Herbert's analysis and indictment of the steps by which we came to the Australia of today.

Herbert parallels an intim
Hardcover, 1463 pages
Published 1975 by William Collins
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Before people get upset with me for saying this is Australia's greatest novel, let me say that I realise that it won't appeal to everyone, and perhaps especially to a younger generation less steeped in history than we were. However, whenever I am asked what is the finest piece of literature to come out of Australia, I unhesitatingly reply that this is it. It has everything that an Australian could wish for that is representative of that very eccentric land, and much more besides.

The name alone s
Wes Allen
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Poor Fellow My Country falls somewhere between a 3.5 and a 4.0, so I rounded up because I was feeling generous.

Poor Fellow My Country is an epic. Reading this work is a substantial investment of time—my journey through it took somewhere between seven and eight weeks. Mileage may vary, depending on whether the reader is Australian or not. As an outsider, I suspect that this book means less to me personally than if I were born in the land of Oz, the land down under. That being said, Poor Fellow My
Dec 31, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At 1443 pages, Xavier Herbert’s masterwork Poor Fellow My Country took a month to read. I set myself a target of 50 pages or so each day, and interspersed the reading with other books to (literally) lighten the load. My hardback copy weighs nearly 2 kilos, and it measures 23.5 x 16 x 6cm, which makes it hard to hold in the hand, but it’s heavy going in more ways than one. The book is dense with characters; it alludes to real people and events that involve guesswork about who they are; plot point ...more
Bob Newman
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
Bazza Mackenzie meets "As the World Turns"---a long rave

Xavier Herbert must have had a dream editor, because he got away with publishing a 1,463 page monster that should have been cut by at least a thousand pages. While Herbert's descriptions of action or the magnificent landscapes of northern Australia are well-done, he doesn't know what to do with his characters, who all come across as wooden stereotypes. They all 'represent' a type of person found in northern Australian society of the 1930s--
Johanna Botman
Jan 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
My favourite of all the Miles Franklin winners. It took me a long time to come to grips with this novel. I bought my first copy of it when I was 16 and would try to read it on the bus on the way to work during my school holidays.
I think I tried it 4 times and didn't get anywhere.
Then, while working overseas, I found a copy in a bookshop for $10. Who could resist? I finished it that time. Being older made a huge difference to my capability to complete this. I left it there with a friend (who I am
Kiran Bhat
Apr 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
There are those vast forms that have informed the cultures of entire nations, but because they are cultures that are rarely discussed in the mainstream, they tend to be relics of a time and history which are often forgotten. As I began Poor Fellow My Country, the Miles Franklin winning novel of Xavier Herbert, I was immediately struck, by his description, of a boy… “Aboriginal… distinctly so by cast of countenance, while yet so lightly coloured as to pass for any light-skinned breed even tanned ...more
This is probably so very superficial but it annoyed the heck out of me! There was a lot of blushing done in this book by many characters but especially by Jeremy Delacy. As he is one of the main characters in the book, I supposed he's in a lot of scenes and innumerable blushes was done by him. Of course, different sort of words are used:

"Colouring and swallowing, Jeremy replied…"
"His [Jeremy] face flamed."
"Jeremy was red again:..."

above examples were taken from consecutive 2-3 pages of Chapter 2
Christine Bongers
Nov 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: aussie-adult
It took a seventeen-hour bus trip and a week on a remote station north of Nyngan and east of Burke, NSW, to get through these 1400 pages of minute print. It is the longest book I've ever read, and the longest work of fiction ever published in Australia. Worth the effort? Hell, yeah. A great, if not, *the* great Australian novel.
Apr 29, 2019 is currently reading it
Shelves: australian
This is a review-in-progress.

Poor Fellow My Country is arguably the longest single-volume novel ever published in English. (Richardson's Clarissa was issued in several volumes, and Powell's Dance to the Music of Time is a series of novels - regardless of what some might say.) Inarguably, it is the longest Australian novel of all time. I have resolved to read it over the course of 2020, so will post reviews intermittently as I progress.

Herbert had been working on the novel since 1938, when his on
Jan 20, 2020 rated it liked it
An achievement more than a masterpiece.
Deliberately (?) no emotions are written in to the narrative. Example: the episode in which Jeremy is dropped off in the Outback to experience its solitude (Chap. 19, IV). Beautiful writing but we get no description of how he is actually experiencing that solitude and later his fears during the night alone - only descriptions of his outer appearance and actions. This removal of emotions from characters (their stoicism, perhaps - typical of the Australian c
Jan 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s been a long time since it took me so long to read a book, even one this long, but it was worth it. There are some simplifications and excesses, sometimes it can get overly sentimental, but not much or often. On the whole, I wouldn’t cut much. That’s really saying something in this case.
Carolyn Morick
Aug 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
An enormous book about outback Australia and Aboriginal people and the interaction between Aboriginal and non Aboriginal populations pastoralists and townies. I read it a long time ago.
Andrew Young
Apr 12, 2020 rated it did not like it
The worst (and longest) book I've ever read. An embarrassment to Australian literature.
Nov 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: australian, fiction
This novel took me months to read but I was determined to finish and today I achieved my mission. It could have been two, three or even six different books, such is the breadth and depth of the story.

I can't say truthfully if I liked it as 'like' seems too frivolous a term to use when reviewing such an epic (and I use that term in the true sense of the word). I

am hard put to describe my reaction to this book other than to say I am glad that I finished it but I would not necessarily recommend i
David Harris
Apr 30, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australian
The longest book in the English language published in one volume - 1463 pages! Long, too long, would benefit from having around 500 pages removed. Having said that, usually an engaging read with some vey interesting and worthwhile (though mainly very negative) alternative views on Australian history, culture and society. A shortened version should be in the reading list of every Australian school child.
Dec 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
An excellent read. It is a powerful, haunting, and ultimately sad, reminder of the nature of the way in which our country was colonised.
My only criticism would be that at times, especially in the middle of the book, the flow of the story was weighed down by lengthy and labored political debate. This notwithstanding, I would recommend all mindful Australians read Poor Fellow My Country.
Kathy Watkins
Amazing, I read this a long time ago ..and I must read it again soon
Clare Cannon
Nov 27, 2013 marked it as one-day
Monica Guy says this is better than Mary Durack Kings in Grass Castles...
Rob Miller
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Aussie Readers: Buddy Read: Poor Fellow My Country 3 9 May 07, 2019 04:31PM  

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Born Alfred Jackson in 1901 (the year of Australia's federation), Herbert was the illegitimate son of a social climbing mother and an engine driver. After studying pharmacy, Herbert moved to Melbourne where he became a magazine short story writer, drawing on his often fantastic views of boyhood, having grown up in Western Australia on the edge of the untamed outback. Herbert then moved to Darwin w ...more

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