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Rethinking Australian Country Towns

posted on 2023-05-24, 05:08 authored by Driscoll, C, Katherine Darian-SmithKatherine Darian-Smith, Nichols, D
The Dry is one of Australia’s fiction publishing success stories of 2016. 1 Its author, Jane Harper, set her debut crime novel in an imaginary town five hours’ drive from Melbourne. The book’s key premise is familiar in Australian fiction: a protagonist who has ‘escaped’ the clutches of a country community yet is haunted by its secrets. Harper’s central character, Aaron Falk, left the town of Kiewarra under a cloud, and on his return two decades later he is entangled in the apparent murder-suicide of a farmer facing bankruptcy. Throughout The Dry , small-town life is presented as complex, difficult and, during a time of drought when Kiewarra’s ‘huge river’ is ‘nothing more than a dusty scar . . . a cracked patchwork of rocks and crabgrass’, almost unliveable. 2 Yet even in good times, Falk reflects that country life has a ‘crushing vastness . . . enough to drown in’. 3 There are ‘too many people who know too much about each other’, and contrary to the conventional view of the generosity of country folk, ‘there’s not always a lot of help at hand’. 4 Ambivalence regarding country community aside, The Dry ’s plot conforms to established tropes representing the oppositional relationship between the Australian city and its non-metropolitan hinterland, as well as the specific place of the country town in Australian national identity and cultural production.


Publication title

Cultural Sustainability in Rural Communities: Rethinking Australian Country Towns


Driscoll, C, Darian-Smith, K, and Nichols, D






College Office - College of Arts, Law and Education



Place of publication

United Kingdom



Rights statement

Copyright 2017 selection and editorial matter, Catherine Driscoll, Kate Darian-Smith and David Nichols; individual chapters, the contributors

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  • Restricted

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Expanding knowledge in history, heritage and archaeology

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