Poor Fellow My Country falls somewhere between a 3.5 and a 4.0, so I rounded up because I was feeling generous Poor Fellow My Country is an epic Reading this work is a substantial investment of time my journey through it took somewhere between seven and eight weeks Mileage may vary, depending on whether the reader is Australian or not As an outsider, I suspect that this book means less to me personally than if I were born in the land of Oz, the land down under That being said, Poor Fellow My Country has much to offer any reader willing to invest the time in Herbert s magnum opus There is much to like, even some to love, in Poor Fellow My Country, though it has its shortcomings, too Let s start with the positives.First, Herbert s descriptions of Australia as a land are truly amazing at times He is adept in delineating the beautiful landscape of Northern Australia in particular the rainy season, the mountains and plains, the power of the land as an almost spiritual force Herbert s detailed portrait of the physical landscape is clearly borne of a deep love for it Taking the time to visualize the land is a key ingredient to understanding and enjoying Poor Fellow My Country it is a pleasure not to be overlooked Another strength of Herbert s is his ability to paint a convincing political climate Not being much of a politico myself, this aspect of the book did not initially appeal to me However, by the time I was halfway through, the political machinations and details became increasingly compelling Poor Fellow My Country is full of World War II and its seldom studied effects on Australia, a country sorely lacking in identity during the 30s and 40s The forces of Communism and Socialism saturate the many pages of the book, and Hitler and Mussolini are observed from afar Australia s inner turmoil in finding its place during these global events is portrayed by Herbert in a way that is hard to dismiss A final strength of Poor Fellow My Country worth noting is the sheer power of the work It is one of the only books I have read in the last few years that nearly nearly brought me to tears By the end of the book, I felt fully invested in Australia, rooting for the country to break away from imperial forces and revert to the ways of old I wanted the Aboriginal people to receive some sort of reparation to be allowed to live in peace, enjoying their lives as before the arrival of the kuttabah I wanted to see the squattocracy brought low and destroyed Ultimately, I desired to see Australia take up the mantle of its own identity, loosing the imperial shackles that had no place on the country I am certain this is precisely how Herbert wanted his readers to feel, and my own experience bears witness to his success.Unfortunately, Poor Fellow My Country does have its issues, too, some of which are hard to ignore First, Herbert s character development is far from perfect As a fellow reviewer noted, he is often guilty of heavy handed stereotyping Many of the characters in the novel feel flat and insipid, mere tableaux for human life Herbert is particularly guilty of doing this with his female characters They are often needy and girlish, completely dependent on others for any kind of satisfaction Rifkah may be an exception to this The women of his novel are less intelligent than the men and constantly seek affirmation from them Along these lines, nearly every woman in the book has some kind of unexplained affinity for Jeremy Delacy, the scrub bull In fact, there are several young and sexy women throughout the course of Poor Fellow My Country who want nothing than to copulate with Jeremy, who is nigh sixty years old To me, this has the damning appearance of the fantasies of an old man, as Herbert was at the time of writing It is an aspect of the book better left at the drawing board, and one that never ceased to annoy me.My other complaint against Poor Fellow My Country is its rather ignorant hatred of Christianity Now, are there some attacks against Christianity that are well thought out Sure However, Herbert s blatant hatred of the religion is uninformed and unconvincing He sees it only as a force of imperialism, in which form it is detestable indeed Herbert chooses to focus on the acts of hypocritical imperialist Christians, not on the belief system itself Much like his character development, his diatribes against Christian faith are flat and one dimensional Interestingly enough, he does not take this tone with the Cult of the Rainbow Snake, which seems to be a rather violent and menacing religion, whose followers can be excused or at the least, not seriously condemned for acts of extreme torture Complaints notwithstanding, Poor Fellow My Country is worth the time it requires to read It is a complex and powerful novel, one that paints the Australia of the 30s and 40s in all its glory and grime While Poor Fellow My Country is a far cry from perfect, it remains a very good read and one that I will likely return to someday Mummuk yawarra At 1443 pages, Xavier Herbert s masterwork Poor Fellow My Country took a month to read I set myself a target of 50 pages or so each day, and interspersed the reading with other books to literally lighten the load My hardback copy weighs nearly 2 kilos, and it measures 23.5 x 16 x 6cm, which makes it hard to hold in the hand, but it s heavy going in ways than one The book is dense with characters it alludes to real people and events that involve guesswork about who they are plot points are resurrected many pages after their first mention and there are chunks of polemical rants that seem to go on and on forever The reader needs stamina, tolerance and patience to read Poor Fellow My Country It is an intensely political novel, and what many Australian readers may find confronting is that Herbert makes no secret of his contempt for his fellow Australians.Poor Fellow My CountryFirst edition, 1975Yet Wikipedia lists Poor Fellow My Country among its notable books published for that decade, and it won the Miles Franklin Award in 1975 IMO that s not because the novel has great prose, or wonderful characters or lyric qualities or even a very good plot It won, I think, because it s one of the few books I ve read that tackles the issue of Australian identity.Poor Fellow My Country is a lament for the Australia that Herbert thought it could have been, an Australia that could reconcile the dispossession of its indigenous people and throw off its colonial apron strings I think that most Australians now would have some sympathy with his resentment of Australia s largely self imposed deference to all things British, which meant that British still held sovereignty in many areas Because of the Australian Parliament s delay in ratifying the Statute of Westminster 1931 , by the time WW2 started Australia still wasn t part of the Commonwealth of Nations but rather still part of the British Empire Its soldiers were British, travelling on British passports, and under British command Herbert regarded this as a second dispossession in Australia.However, I suspect that his vision of a Creole Anglo Aboriginal nation would sit ill with many, not least our Indigenous people themselves because they want to retain their own unique culture, heritage and identity Some might also feel that by recording some of their myths and cultural practices in this book, Herbert is guilty of appropriation He was a champion of indigenous issues for his time, and according to the introduction in the AR edition , his efforts to use fiction to bring these issues to a wider audience were valued by Indigenous people in that era, but times have changed I d be very interested to read a review of Poor Fellow My Country by a contemporary indigenous reader.To read the rest of my review please visit My favourite of all the Miles Franklin winners It took me a long time to come to grips with this novel I bought my first copy of it when I was 16 and would try to read it on the bus on the way to work during my school holidays.I think I tried it 4 times and didn t get anywhere.Then, while working overseas, I found a copy in a bookshop for 10 Who could resist I finished it that time Being older made a huge difference to my capability to complete this I left it there with a friend who I am sure never read it It took me 2 months to read as part of my Miles Franklin campaign And I am so pleased that I did.The movie Australia is kind of a Mills and Boon cut down version of the story That s to tell you a brief synopsis not to put you off reading it It is a wide ranging, heartfelt commentary on the state of Australian politics, place in the world, attitude to aborigines, sexism, racism, stupidity and as cantankerous as the author.I loved it. Bazza Mackenzie meets As the World Turns a long raveXavier Herbert must have had a dream editor, because he got away with publishing a 1,463 page monster that should have been cut by at least a thousand pages While Herbert s descriptions of action or the magnificent landscapes of northern Australia are well done, he doesn t know what to do with his characters, who all come across as wooden stereotypes They all represent a type of person found in northern Australian society of the 1930s the silent macho Ocker, the Irish publican, the Scotsman, the smart Jews, the arrogant Germans, the naive, superstitious Hindu, the sneaky Japanese, the Aboriginal medicine man, the half castes, the Catholic priest, the government bureaucrats, the supercilious British officers, the spoiled city girl, the homosexual, etc Not one of them ever reveals an iota of inner thought, so the reader is left with simple caricatures, most of whom even talk in painstakingly spelled dialects, which, as when an Eastern European priest gives a three page speech on Church philosophy replete with every zis , zen and vy , can be excruciating Herbert s female characters are also appallingly narrow and stereotyped the author borders on the misogynistic None of them appear the least bit real Herbert uses a lot of Aboriginal words and phrases, the accuracy of which might be questioned if his Hindi is anything to go by A half caste boy of ten may be endowed with great bush skills, but his disposal of his main enemies strained my credulity to the breaking point Herbert s tendency to kill off characters when he has no use for them, or doesn t know how to proceed, is also a sign of over ambitious writing I didn t like this book for another reason Herbert makes repeated calls for an independent Australia I would hardly argue with that it s a positive point But in his search for what an independent Australia might look like, he flirted too much with fascism, rejecting it only because of its violence and anti Semitism Is that all that is wrong with fascism If you are looking for a good novel, this is definitely not it But to be fair, POOR FELLOW MY COUNTRY does have one virtue Herbert s ideas about Australian society, Australia s past and possible future are interesting and at the time of publication mid 1970s practically unique One can read this book as a kind of overlong polemic on the evils of the white Australian relationship to the land and to the Aborigines That is the only reason I would read this book Believe me, it is a long, long slog. This is probably so very superficial but it annoyed the heck out of me There was a lot of blushing done in this book by many characters but especially by Jeremy Delacy As he is one of the main characters in the book, I supposed he s in a lot of scenes and innumerable blushes was done by him Of course, different sort of words are used Colouring and swallowing, Jeremy replied His Jeremy face flamed Jeremy was red again above examples were taken from consecutive 2 3 pages of Chapter 2but effectively, he s blushingI don t get it He s a middle aged man this story spans over a decade and he still blushes at the end of it and supposedly a man s man he s nicknamed the Scrub Bull and then Then, all these women were falling all over themselves for HIM Argh Okay, I can see the appeal maybe And I don t like any of these female characters they are either selfish or servile especially when it comes to Jeremy Delacy, ugh or just plain silly as opposed to being sensible.On the other hand, I managed to finish a whole 1,440 pages O so that is an absolutely amazing job by the author to have kept me engaged over the past 9 weeks that s how long the library let me have this book for I think it gives us a very fair picture of Australia of that time beginning a few years after WW1 and ending at end of WW2 the oppression struggle of the Indigenous people, racism across many races , the fickleness of politics But really, I could ve done with half the size of this book. It took a seventeen hour bus trip and a week on a remote station north of Nyngan and east of Burke, NSW, to get through these 1400 pages of minute print It is the longest book I ve ever read, and the longest work of fiction ever published in Australia Worth the effort Hell, yeah A great, if not, the great Australian novel. In Poor Fellow, My Country, Xavier Herbert Returns To The Region Made His Own In Capricornia Northern Australia Ranging Over A Period Of Some Six Years, The Story Is Set During The Late S And Early S But It Is Not So Much A Tale Of This Period As Herbert S Analysis And Indictment Of The Steps By Which We Came To The Australia Of Today Herbert Parallels An Intimate Personal Narrative With A Tale Of Approaching War And The Disconnect Between Modern Australia And Its First Inhabitants With Enduring Portraits Of A Large Cast Of Local And International Characters, Herbert Paints A Scene Of Racial, Familial, And Political Disparity He Lays Bare The Paradoxes Of This Wild Land, Both Old And Wise, Young Flawed Winner Of The Miles Franklin Award On First Publication In , Poor Fellow, My Country Is Masterful Storytelling, An Epic In The Truest Sense This Is The Decisive Story Of How Australia Threw Away Her Chance Of Becoming A True Commonwealth It Is Undoubtedly Herbert S Supreme Contribution To Australian Literature It s been a long time since it took me so long to read a book, even one this long, but it was worth it There are some simplifications and excesses, sometimes it can get overly sentimental, but not much or often On the whole, I wouldn t cut much That s really saying something in this case. An enormous book about outback Australia and Aboriginal people and the interaction between Aboriginal and non Aboriginal populations pastoralists and townies I read it a long time ago. This novel took me months to read but I was determined to finish and today I achieved my mission It could have been two, three or even six different books, such is the breadth and depth of the story I can t say truthfully if I liked it as like seems too frivolous a term to use when reviewing such an epic and I use that term in the true sense of the word I am hard put to describe my reaction to this book other than to say I am glad that I finished it but I would not necessarily recommend it It is harsh, long, truthful and uncomfortable It was at times joyous and other times truly horrible What never changed is Herbert s extraordinary and evocative descriptions of the north of Australia and the people who live there.