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Daisy Bates in the Desert

About the Book

Daisy Bates in the Desert

For twenty-five years Julia Blackburn was fascinated by the haunting figure of Daisy Bates, an Englishwoman who emigrated to Australia in the early part of the century, was briefly married to the famous Breaker Morant, and returned to England to marry again. In 1913, when she was a middle-aged woman, Daisy Bates made another journey to Australia, this time to the Great Victoria Desert of South Australia. She ended up staying there for nearly thirty years, abandoning her husband and son and living among Aborigine people, who were being annihilated by the incursions of European technology, culture, and disease. A would-be anthropologist with no formal training, an ascetic who throughout her life was prone to having snobbish daydreams, a missionary who sought to minister to the physical welfare of "her people" rather than to impose an alien religion or culture on them--who sought, in fact, to save them from the fatal encroachment of that culture--Daisy Bates fit into no recognizable mold. She was also a habitual liar and fantasist for whom, it would seem, "the past had no fixed shape or pattern" [p. 21]. Her conflicting versions of her own life have long baffled biographers; Blackburn, adopting Bates's own subjective interpretation of facts, events, and dreams, has created her own Daisy Bates in a daring and very personal literary interpretation of an extraordinary life. "I am Daisy Bates in the desert" [p.63], Blackburn writes--and proceeds to spin a rich tale that values imaginative truth over ascertainable fact.

Daisy Bates in the Desert
by Julia Blackburn

  • Publication Date: August 8, 1995
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 0679744460
  • ISBN-13: 9780679744467