Wednesday, December 17, 2014

New England writers – Introducing Binks Turnbull Dowling’s For crying out loud

Binks Turnbull Dowling’s For crying out loud (published by the author, Dorrigo 1997) is another of those autobiographical memoirs of early life and young adulthood that have so enriched our understanding of New England life and history. It’s also a good if sometimes confusing read.

The book is broken into somewhat overlapping chronological segments. In part, these explore and describe Binks’ life up to her marriage. However, For crying out loud is also an examination of her parents, their personalities and the complexities of relationship, seeking to understand. The book is dedicated to the father that she greatly loved, a father she rarely saw after she was sent to Kotupna at the age of five, a father who died when she was fifteen. Finally, the book centres on life on Kotupna itself, a large station in the Fall country to the east of Armidale and the heart of the large extended Turnbull family.

In some ways, the book is a story of loss, one replicated by other New England writers including Judith Wright and Judith Wallace. Loss of family connection, decline and finally loss of Kotupna itself.

There are sad elements in the story that made me uncomfortable, a reminder of the uncertainties and complexities of life. Apart from the story of her parents, I wondered about the inarticulate nature of the Turnbull men, about the break-ups and relationship failures. Sometimes, it seemed to me that Kotupna had become a devouring beast.

I know that members of the Turnbull family would probably not share that perception. When Binks asked her mother years’ later why she stayed at Kotupna, Jean looked at her strangely and said simply “But I was happy”. The love they all had for Koputna, Binks is no exception, shines through.

The book ends with Binks’ marriage to Ian and the establishment of a long and obviously happy relationship. The book was written because their children insisted. I am glad they did.

In the next post in this series I will look in more detail at the book itself. 


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