Ellen Kelly’s main claim to fame is her relationship to Australia’s most well-known “Bushranger”. It would have been understandable if her biography had been overshadowed by the presence of her son Ned, but that isn’t the case. The familiar story of Ned’s criminal exploits leading up to the deadly Glenrowan seige, are dealt with very briefly.
Ellen was serving a three year sentence in Melbourne Gaol at the time of Ned’s crimes, with a conviction related to the (alleged) attempted murder of a policeman who had visted her home and paid inappropriate and unwelcome attention to her young daughter Kate. She seemed to know very little of Ned’s situation until he was captured and also imprisoned in Melbourne Gaol.
While Ned’s doomed conflict with the law doesn’t take centre stage, the social and legal conditions that influenced his path are portrayed very clearly. Perhaps by sidelining Ned, and taking the focus away from whether he was a hero or a villain, Allen shows how others (including the rest of the Kelly family) were affected by those conditions. Others who suffered out of the public eye without returning harm for harm, violence for violence.
Over the last week I’ve been able to transfer three books from my “Reading Now” list to this year’s list of books read.
Rock Bottom (Inspired by God), by Michael Teter is only a short book, but it took me a long time to get through it. I read about half of it some time ago but didn’t get back to read the rest for several weeks. The book is a testimony of how Teter’s life was dramatically changed by an encounter with God while serving a prison sentence. It comes across as an honest and heartfelt, no-frills story that would have benefitted from some basic editing for spelling and grammar. The technical shortcomings in the writing made the book more difficult for me to get through, but maybe its lack of literary polish added to the authenticity of the book .
Now I can Dance is Tina Arena’s autobiography. Starting her career as a child star on the once popular Australian variety show Young Talent Time, Tina Arena has been one of Australia’s most successful singers, both at “home” and also overseas. Until very recently I gave no attention at all to Arena’s music, but for some reason that changed a couple of months ago.
She’s an artist I’ve admired in the past after hearing her sing live at two separate record store promotions. I’d never before witnessed a singer putting so much emotion and power into a performance of a song. But she didn’t sing the kind of songs I liked at the time. Now it seems my musical tastes have broadened.
While she is 10 years younger than myself, the fact that her singing career started at such a young age, a lot of the book covers times that are familiar to me, from the 1970s through to the present day and I found a lot of personal memories being stirred as well as learning something about the background of Arena’s life and music.
The last of the three was Electric Eden by Rob Young. I bought this book because it seemed to be about a history of British folk music, starting in the late 19th- early 20th centuries when a systematic collecting of folk music and songs began, through to the beginning of the 21st century. While there was a continuing thread of that historical journey, Young was more interested in the reflection of the “spiritual psyche” of the British, as portrayed through the music and perceived by the author who seemed to lean favourably to a new age/pagan/ Gnosticism.