Some months exciting new books appear, and this month there is a feast for the rural reader and theologian. Penguin books has recently published Rachael Treasure's first novel 'Jillaroo' (Penguin Books, pp 471, $19.95 softcover), while Phoenix Press has brought out in paperback Hans Kung's latest 'The Catholic Church' (via Allen & Unwin, pp 231, $21.00 softcover)
Treasure has produced a novel of epic proportions, the story of a country girl who rarely visits 'the big smoke' as opposed to the usual city slickers sojourning in the bush. Life is authentic - loneliness and grog, utes the usual form of transport after equine, shearing sheds and working dogs, family relationships strained from proximity, and love a luxury. There are not many luxuries living on a multi million dollar farm with less than a Centrelink income.
This is Rachael Treasure's first novel. It should not be her last. Her creation, Rebecca Saunders is a towering figure, as tough as the bush itself; even the B & S Balls have a life of their own. Wives are chosen, 'who can fence and fornicate…not a skinny piece'. Farmers' sons are either born farmers or 'a shed man, a tool man, or a diesel dick' as they say in the pub.
The story is set on a NSW family property, from whence our heroine flees after a terrible row with her father. She heads north, becomes a jillaroo, goes to an agricultural college, and later meets a handsome party animal. The rest of the epic then unwinds.
Rachael Treasure has been a jillaroo, a breeder of working dogs, attended Orange Agricultural College, and has experienced B&S Balls and Bundy. She and her husband live in Fingal Valley in Tasmania, with part of the year spent on the family's Gippsland property. In her writing she aims to bridge the widening gap between city and country. Buy it and 'treasure' it.
Hans Kung - the Swiss born theologian who taught at Tubingen from 1960 till 1996, - now has his latest book available in English in softcover. He came to prominence in the '60s when Pope John XXIII appointed him as a theological consultant to the Second Vatican Council. In 1979 the Vatican banned him from teaching as a Catholic theologian, so his University gave him a personal chair. However he remains a priest 'in good standing'.
In a brief canvas, Kung surveys the history of the Catholic Church, or at least the history of the papacy. He fills the pages with memorable insights, the highs and lows of Roman Catholicism from the earliest times down to today. 'A must read'