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Song of Australia Paperback – September 3, 2013
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About the Author
Stephen Crabbe was born in Adelaide, South Australia. His twin passions from the earliest years were music and language in all its forms. He studied classical pianoforte from the age of five, read books whenever possible and loved to explore all other languages. Stephen took up education as a profession. This career took him into schools in several different roles, but eventually he chose to be a full-time music educator. Writing was always a compulsion for Stephen, but in later years it drew more attention. He contributed scripts for screen productions and wrote articles for online publications. The main focus of his writing now is fiction, especially of the historical kind. He lives in the rural south-west of Australia.
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Margaret Sutherland's review
Feb 08, 14 · edit
4 of 5 stars
Song of Australia is a collection of three linked novellas. Australians of German origin suffer discrimination as war stirs patriotic feeling and a war mentality. The Fischer family are forced to change their name, leave judgments of small town life and move to the city. Violence and abuse are heaped on mild citizens who see themselves as Australians.
Music is a secondary theme. In the first story, Magpies and Mendelssohn, the handicapped child Neddy cannot learn by conventional methods, but music bypasses his difficulty. He is helped by Elsie, a gifted child pianist, who befriends the boy until she is forced to join her German family in the city.
The second story follows the same themes as suitable words are sought for an Australian anthem. Elsie's musicianship and her friend Edwin's intellectual bent cause them to ponder suitable sentiments for the song, until in the end they discover that music alone, without any words, has more power to inspire and unite a population. Finally, Edwin's story unfolds as he struggles to define his values as conscription looms. Edwin is ambivalent, realising his views as a conscientious objector alienate him from his family and the girl he fancies. Edwin does not resolve his ambivalence. Like many of us, he tends to hide his views, worrying over how to reconcile incompatible facts.
The author has produced a sincere message concerning discrimination. His language is nicely chosen and visual, with small pictures such as 'the huge thighs of Moreton Bay Figs', or 'squabbling ducks flay the water with their wings.' He uses musical analogies to convey mood. I enjoyed this book.
The author's love of music and education find full expression in a tale of coming of age in the outskirts of the British Empire during WWI. Australia is the setting for a rather different view of what the typical feelings young people were expected to have been in that time and place.
The first half of the story takes a on a theme that I thought would appeal to those who love music and how it relates to their lives and interests. The characters are interesting, but they generally seem to lack passion. The young age of the main characters likely shielded them from the growing hate that was hanging over them.
I thought the author fearlessly shows the hypocrisy of the clergy in matters of loyalty to God and country. The political and religious changes forced upon those of German origin are the driving influences in the story.
If the reader can stay with the story till the second half of the book, the story gets much more compelling. The maturing characters are now showing their true feelings, and the pace of the story takes on momentum.
I am an author, and I have written my own historical fiction novel. This does not make me literary expert, but I recognize a technically well written book in "Song of Australia."
James A. Wright
For me, the setting of this story is unique. I've not read before a WWI story set entirely at the home-front, depicting an impending storm of conflict within a community. The story is relevant in its capturing the suddenness of change, the surge of intolerance. In this case we feel conflict born from prejudice against German-Australians and lovers of peace. It is told through a number of characters. I thought the author did a brilliant job when taking us within the point of view of a young special needs boy who excelled musically, let alone through Elsie, Will Krause and Edwin--all interesting characters.
Threats of mob action, bullies, budding human relationships, religious hypocrisy and local color all make for a compelling and rich read.