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Daisy Bates in the Desert: A Woman's Life Among the Aborigines Paperback – August 8, 1995


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Vintage Departu edition (August 8, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679744460
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679744467
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #358,183 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Blackburn ( The Emperor's Last Island ) here presents a biography of the extraordinarily determined and independent Daisy Bates who, in 1913, at age 54, removed herself from England to Australia's red desert outback as a self-appointed champion of the Aborigines. She remained there until her death in 1956. She not only shared the Aborigines way of life but so gained their confidence that she was made privy to the men's secret rites. The author traces Bates's steps and draws on her voluminous notebooks and letters, which reveal her as an acute observer of nature and a gifted writer whose works were imbued with dreams and hallucinations. Blackburn superbly fills in gaps with her own research and sympathetic imagination, while preserving the enchantment that Bates herself wove.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Irish-born Bates dedicated the greatest portion of her life to living with and studying the Aborigines of Australia. In this book, Blackburn explores the life and work of this extraordinary woman. The first part presents information gained through the author's scholarly research, interviews, and travels; the second is a lengthy account of Bates's day-to-day life written from the perspective of Bates herself. The latter section is no doubt the most rewarding portion of the book, as it is well written and draws the reader into the absorbing re-creation of a long-term desert experience. In addition to Bates's personal life, the book addresses many topics relating to life in the early 1900s in Australia. Recommended as an informative, entertaining, and descriptive addition to general travel and anthropology collections.
Jo-Anne Mary Benson, Osgoode, Ontario
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

2.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on August 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Daisy Bates, a controversial woman who has attained almost mythical status in Australia, was an inveterate liar, constitutionally incapable of seeing herself in the world as it really was. Instead, she created a better world in her own mind and assumed that everyone else recognized her world as real. As Julia Blackburn reconstructs what she believes to have been Daisy's life in Australia's western desert, and her seemingly futile efforts to protect and preserve the aborigines and their culture, she presents a plausible personality with whom the reader can, to a great extent, identify.

Blackburn is successful in making Daisy's dream world seem like an understandable response to the privations and hardships she faced in her early life alone. In Part I, Blackburn describes what Daisy has said about her life, and follows it with what Blackburn has discovered to be the truth as a result of her documented research. In Part II, she allows Daisy, as she understands her, to speak to the reader herself, and we "live" with her in the desert for many years, watching as her original dedication becomes a mission and then a mania, and her insecurity grows into delusion and eventually paranoia. A woman who seems to have accomplished nothing of lasting significance, Daisy might have achieved some of her goals if she had only bent a little. Part III tells of Daisy's life after she leaves the desert.

Blackburn brings Daisy's Australian desert camp to life--the blinding sun, the heat of day and cold of night, the ghostly arrivals and departures of the shy aborigines, the birds and animals who were often Daisy's only company, and the changes wrought by the railroads, settlement, missionaries, and unfeeling governmental bureaucrats.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
The author is highly imaginative and tells a lot about her own life in this mish mash. We never learn much about Daisy Bates. the author writes " her body shudders like a dying rabbit and her new husband wakes and stares at his new wife..." But the author is really describing her own childhood dream of an old man with his legs wrapped around her neck!!! Blackburn's "very personal interpretation" of the life of Daisy Bates seems to include Blackburn trying to overcome some of her own childhood traumas and problems with men. If little is known about Daisy Bates' feelings towards her husband, I'd rather have that than a lot of silly conjecture and fantasy. The prose is very good, very flowery and high flown, but it doesn't help tell the story of Daisy Bates. Like other reviewers, I will have to research Daisy, yes even after reading her "biog". It didn't feel balanced at all.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 17, 1999
Format: Paperback
I read this book for my reading group, and if it hadn't been the "assigned" book for the month, I would not have finished it. I was initially enthusiastic about the book because of its unique setting, and Daisy Bates sounded like an interesting character. Like most of my reading group's members, I was disappointed in the writer's treatment of Daisy's life. She failed to provide sufficient details to form an interesting and cohesive story. I found myself skimming through much of the book because I didn't really get to know Daisy well enough to care about her as a character.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Gatz on October 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
Daisy Bates appears to be delusional at times in recounting her adventures with the Aboriginese but this is still one of the most fascinating reads I've had in a long time! If you were to separate her tales from the fact that she lived on her own among the indigenous peoples of Australia during a time when it was shocking for a woman to do so, there would still be an incredible story of courage and perserverance. This is an account worth reading!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Schuyler T Wallace VINE VOICE on December 10, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
DAISY BATES IN THE DESERT is an interesting book but I was somewhat indifferent as I read it. The author, Julia Blackburn, used an interesting technique in her writing by dividing the book into three parts. The first and third parts use the common biographical technique of third-person reporting. The second finds Blackburn assuming the role of Daisy Bates with a first-person retelling of her life. It now becomes a novel and I don't think it works well.

The story, as told by Blackburn as Bates in Part Two, becomes a fictional account with little to sustain its credibility. There are no citations or references to support the story. Bates becomes one-dimensional with an unpleasant personality and large ego. The hardships she refers to as part of her existence seem overblown and almost whiny. Any heroism she displays seems to be performed reluctantly and at great personal discomfort, not usually traits associated with heroes. The Aborigines she calls her "children" either seem disinterested in her or, after hitting her up for food and care, constantly fade away into the distant outback leaving her alone.

Blackburn makes much to do about Bates's proclivity for telling lies. So, as I read her account of Daisy and her many tales, all I could think of was that there was nothing credible about the story. Other than the difficulties of living in the desert, I didn't see much else of interest to know about her life. Her prominent guests who largely ignored her, her casual acceptance of cannibalism, her curiosity about genitals, her flights of total fancy coupled with bouts with strange illnesses all seem to be unstable manifestations of a demented soul. So, how much of it is true?
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