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The Road from Coorain Paperback – August 11, 1990


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The Road from Coorain + True North: A Memoir + A Woman's Education
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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Departures
  • Paperback: 238 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; First Vintage Books edition (August 11, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679724362
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679724360
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #70,031 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

At age 11, Conway ( Women Reformers and American Culture ) left the arduous life on her family's sheep farm in the Australian outback for school in war-time Sydney, burdened by an emotionally dependent, recently widowed mother. A lively curiosity and penetrating intellect illuminate this unusually objective account of the author's progress from a solitary childhood--the most appealing part of the narrative--to public achievement as president of Smith College and now professor at MIT. Gifted with an ability to adapt to a wide range of cultures and people and despite ingrained Australian prejudice against intellectuals, Conway devoted herself to the study of history and literature, spurred on by excellent British-style schooling. Her further adventures could easily make a rewarding second volume. Paperback rights to Vintage; QPBC alternate.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Conway spent her first 11 years in the windswept grasslands of Australia, where her father owned 30,000 acres of arid land. Though his ability to understand the land was extensive, an eight-year drought finally defeated him, and he comitted suicide. A few years later, Conway's oldest brother died in an automobile accident. The two deaths plunged her mother into depression. Out of this tale of hard work, drought, and sorrow, Conway emerges with character and personal strength. From the University of Sydney, she went on to study history at Harvard and eventually became the first woman president of Smith College. This inspiring book tells in full the details of her life and thoughts up to the time she left for America. Quality Paperback Book Club selection.
- Judith Nixon, Purdue Univ. Libs., W. Lafayette, Ind.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

This story deeply touched me.
Janet
A great read and I think people can grow from the book, if they were willing to let themselves.
Brenda Nalepa
A beautifully written book and a delight to read.
Helen J. Hall

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Janet on May 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
This story deeply touched me. I wish I'd read it when I was in my 20's. The descriptions of the Australian outback and its history are beautifully written. But more importantly this is the story of a young girl's development of strength, intellectual curiosity, courage and individuality. Her puzzlement and subsequent outrage at the gender discrimination she was subject to struck a nerve for me. I particularly recommend this book to college age women, but it surely would be an inspiration to anyone.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Janice D. Twitchell on November 29, 2001
Format: Paperback
Prior to reading this book, I had no interest in travelling to Australia. By the time I had finished the first chapter, my interest was a burning desire. Conway's prose style is descriptive to the point of painting vivid pictures while not being verbose or tiring. My husband and I sought to experience the "outback" west of Coorain. What a memorable stay - on a sheep station where the sheep shearer's cottages were used as guest houses. We've given copies of the book to at least 20 friends over the years as house guest gifts, Christmas and birthday presents. Local book clubs have feasted on its powerful story of what it was like for a woman to grow up in Australia in the middle of the last century.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Kathryn Barter on February 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
The wonderful autobiography entitled, The Road From Coorain, written by Jill Ker Conway is a must-read! Her engaging and rich detail gives an enchanting description of the Australian life-style from a very unique perspective.
Beginning in the 1930's, young Jill Ker lived with her tightly-knit family on a ranch called Coorain, Australia. Isolated in the desert and located far from Sydney, Coorain, has created an unordinary life-style for not only Jill but for her two brothers, Barry and Bob. Maintaining the remote Coorain is the family's only way to ensure stability and in the eyes of Mr. and Mrs. Ker; the significance of Coorain is considered more important than a formal education. Though, when the dreadful droughts of the arid terrain continue to spontaneously appear, life becomes awfully challenging and difficult for the Ker family. Suffering from famine because of the lack of crops and animals, Coorain becomes involved in a downward spiral. As a result, Jill as well as other family members, encounter the enormous struggle of overcoming the concept of death and sorrow. As Jill grows into a young woman, she faces unfortunate events that set her back, creating various obstacles as she journeys down the unpredictable road of life. Faced with challenges romantically, intellectually, and within the family ultimately affects her career and talents, though somehow Jill miraculously manages to succeed.
Choosing an academic career as a historian, Jill faced the constant struggle of chauvinism living as a young woman during the 1950's. Her passion and remarkable academic achievements clearly demonstrated her natural talent as a student. Unfortunately, the unfair privileges men had in contrast to women was a constant obstacle.
Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Nina M. Osier on January 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
"The Western plains of New South Wales are grasslands." Grasslands that with their vastness, their cycles of drought and bounty, and above all their isolation, shaped a little girl who would one day become Smith College's first woman president.
This book has been marketed as a coming of age story for girls. It's surely that, and a remarkable one. It is also (for this American reader, anyway) a fascinating look into a culture of many similarities - but with subtle, yet sometimes startling differences. Something else it ought to be is required reading for any young woman (particularly any gifted young woman!) trapped by a co-dependent relationship with her birth family. Read it, and think about what this world loses every time a woman capable of Jill Ker Conway's lifetime achievements subsumes her talents and sacrifices her dreams because the code of her childhood demands it.
A book that will stay will me always.
--Reviewed by Nina M. Osier, author of "Love, Jimmy: A Maine Veteran's Longest Battle"
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Beverley Strong on April 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
I found this to be an uncomfortable read as I can totally empathise with the author, growing up in the same era and knowing the feeling of being out of sync with the older generation. I realise that this probably happens even now but at least these days, females have grown up knowing themselves to be the equal of males and without having to apologise for sometimes being smarter.Jill was fortunate to have a very good education but was also responsible for earning Australian government scholarships which are awarded solely on the good marks earned in exams( not by good luck as one reviewer implied).Even so, she was, not so subtley reminded that a woman's primary function was as a wife and mother and as a mere adjunct to her husband and even brothers. This state of affairs probably existed in all cultures at that time, and not just i Australia, but even as I read, that old feeling of suffocation was present...the feeling that you wanted more but of what, you couldn't say and your parents certainly didn't understand either.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John Lacey on August 8, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jill Ker Conway writes with a voice of inevitable achievement that drives this short memoir along. She describes her childhood in the Australian bush, a childhood filled with both accomplishment and tragedy. There is an undercurrent of joy here, perhaps of contentment. I particularly enjoyed the parts about the nonviolent dismantling of colonialism, the sexism of the fifties, and her relationship with her family as she grew from a child to an adult. The only flaw I found was that she covered racism and to a lesser extent sexism with a voice of current polite culture, and not the more consistent voice of her childhood and youth used throughout the book. In other words, the disapproving academic put her fingers in the pie. Still, this is a memoir of the highest quality, which matches West with the Night in my opinion, and which might eventually take a place with the very finest I've read, such as Wind, Sand, and Stars.
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