Book Review: Moving Among Strangers by Gabrielle Carey (Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014)

This year I am reading and rereading children and young adult ‘classics’ written by Australian women. Read more here. However, I am taking a short break from them to read some of the books from the Stella Prize Longlist. Read more about that here

moving among strangers

Moving Among Strangers: Randolph Stow and My Family by Gabrielle Carey
(2013, University of Queensland Press)

Own copy

When I saw this book on the Stella Longlist, I knew I needed to read it. Midnite by Randolph Stow was  one of the favourite books of my Year 6 teacher, and he read it aloud to our class, as he had read it aloud to my sister’s class the year before. When I became a teacher, I tracked Midnite down at the Lifeline Book Fest and made it part of my classroom library – it was always exciting when a new student discovered this excellent book about a very bad bushranger.

So, a book which was connected to Randolph Stow was an exciting idea. But I had no idea that it was going to be such a wonderful, moving, whimsical and real story of Stow and his connection to the Carey family. Gabrielle Carey opens with a letter that she wrote to Stow when her mother was dying, a letter which sets up a chain of events leading to a literary pilgrimage. Along the way there’s books and poetry and shipwrecks and Australian (specifically Western Australian) history. And it’s sad and uplifting and beautiful.

This isn’t an easy book to summarise, there’s no neat and easy way to explain it. It’s like listening to a wonderful lecture by someone who doesn’t always stay on the same path, but somehow manages to make it all connect anyway. (That reminds me of some of my favourite Ancient History lecturers at the University of Queensland – maybe that’s why I enjoyed it so much). It’s a glimpse into the life of a prolific Australian author who has sadly been forgotten by a lot of Australia and a wonderful, rich family story at the same time.

Carey’s writing style is immensely readable. I devoured this while staying with my in-laws at the beach. Often I take books when we head there with the best intentions of reading them, but get sucked into the allure of napping and come home with a lot of unread books. Moving Among Strangers, though, was stronger than the nap, and I made my way through it quickly (a little too quick – I really wanted more!). I thoroughly recommend this book and hope it gets a big boost with readers thanks to the Stella Prize recognition.



  1. Yes, this was an interesting book. I thought it appealed to me just because I’m a family history fiend from way back and understand why someone would go on this kind of journey. It is a difficult book to categorise isn’t it? I thought of it as a kind of musing.

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