Book Review: Rivers: The Lifeblood of Australia, by Ian Hoskins • Glam Adelaide

Book Review: Rivers: The Lifeblood of Australia, by Ian Hoskins

NON-FICTION: In this broad-ranging survey of ten Australian waterways and river systems, Ian Hoskins presents a history of our complex connections to water.

It is a beautiful book, hardcover, with gorgeous pictures.

One thing has become apparent through watching Facebook through lockdown – we love water, be it photos of sunset at Semaphore, dawn at Barmera, or nostalgic childhood photos of Popeye on the Torrens. As such, it was no surprise how popular this book was amongst our team.

It is a beautiful book, hardcover, with gorgeous pictures that mean you can’t help but turn pages just to look at them. There are photos, old and new, paintings, maps… but once you have turned pages marvelling at the pictures, it is then you are drawn back to the start to read Ian Hoskins’ stories and histories. This book is much more than a pretty coffee table book or a plain reference book.

There is a wealth of history – Aboriginal, colonial and current – as well as descriptions of environmental change, written in an engaging, easy to read manner. It is divided in to ten sections, Rivers as Lifeblood being the first and then the following chapters are for each river or river system. Everything is brilliantly noted with endnotes, references and index.

I opened the book at random to become engrossed in a section within the chapter on The Channel Country that describes how Banjo Paterson was inspired to write Waltzing Matilda while at Dagworth Station on the Diamantina. Once I’d read that, I had to go back to the start and read properly… and the next thing I knew, it was 3am.

Hoskins has 25 years of experience as a historian and was commissioned by the National Library of Australia to write a book on 10 rivers and ended up with 9 and a river system. He spent nearly 2 years driving and boating around the countryside to observe the intricacies, changes and collect research.

Reading and looking through, it makes perfect sense that the maps and stories in Rivers: The Lifeblood of Australia give ‘the abstracted impression of a vast organism kept alive by blue veins, capillaries and arteries.’

Dive in, you’ll feel it.

Reviewed by Michelle Baylis
Rating out of 5: 4.5

Distributed by: National Library of Australia
Released: October 2020
RRP: $49.99 hardcover

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