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About the book
  • Published: 31 August 2011
  • ISBN: 9781742754673
  • Imprint: Random House Australia
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 320

Shearers' Motel




'Roger McDonald uses language with the precision of a diamond cutter.' Publishers Weekly

'Roger McDonald uses language with the precision of a diamond cutter.' Publishers Weekly

Another shed coming up on the horizon...a low, wide roof of galvanised iron the only landmark in a million square miles of flatness and glare... The sun blazed overhead like a nuclear pile. His hat smelt like a dirty sock. His body was sticky, itchy, tired. The tyres of his old yellow truck, sunk into the sand, gave out a hot, desolate, perished rubber odour, heatwaves ballooning from the bodywork. The impression he had, glancing back towards the vehicle, was of disintegrating material only just holding together. A split in his hat admitted a hot bar of sunlight onto his scalp. His eyeballs felt like pinpoint charred coals and he wanted to slide down into what shade there was...

Yesterday morning he had left a tin-roofed farmhouse far to the south of here - Sharon, his wife, and his three daughters hardly stirring in their sleep as they said goodbye. Then while he was out at the truck tying down the last of his load they woke up more, stumbled from bed and huddled in jumpers, stamping their feet in the chill, hugging themselves in the greyness of first light. Sharon brought him a mug of tea and they stood looking at each other over the steaming rims. Well, there was more to this going away than met the eye. The talk of money. The talk of returning to the country of his childhood. It wasn't the full story...

He took the cool, pre-autumnal, misty dawn track away - across sheep paddocks dotted with poplars. In a ground mist a flock of starlings formed a perfect heart collapsing into the tatters of a pine windbreak. It was a reversed image of emotion. He was leaving a house, making a break, following a pattern he barely understood. He only knew it was happening; that he was making it happen, and was going, and if he didn't there was a kind of death he would face, he couldn't name what it was.

Into the hard-living world of travelling shearers in the Australian outback comes internationally acclaimed writer Roger McDonald, driving an old truck rattling with cooking gear. He has abandoned writing for a time and found work as a cook for a team of New Zealand shearers working through New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria. He is determined to find a sense of belonging: somehow to join his life with the landscape, the places and the people he meets along the way; somehow to fill the inexpressible yearning he feels.

Shearers' Motel is the story of that quest, of its triumphs and its failures - a story told with a heartfelt sense of of the profundity of ordinary lives. Written with an insider's affection and familiarity sharpened by an outsider's perception, this moving account of working life in a classic Australian industry gives a new twist to a long tradition of outback travel writing. It confirms Roger McDonald as one of our finest and most lyrical chroniclers of the land - and of the human heart.

  • Pub date: 31 August 2011
  • ISBN: 9781742754673
  • Imprint: Random House Australia
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 320

About the Author

Roger McDonald

Roger McDonald was born at Young, NSW, and educated at country schools and in Sydney. For many years he has lived on farms (no farm animals except poultry and a corrugated iron sheep these days) in southern NSW, with intervals spent in Sydney and New Zealand.

His first novel was 1915, winner of the Age Book of the Year, and made into an eight-part ABC-TV series (available on DVD and “looking like a bleached-out relic of a forgotten age when they just happened to have television,” he says). His account of travelling the outback with a team of New Zealand shearers, Shearers' Motel, won the National Book Council Banjo Award for non-fiction. His internationally bestselling novel Mr Darwin's Shooter, was awarded the New South Wales, Victorian, and South Australian Premiers' Literary Awards. The Ballad of Desmond Kale won the 2006 Miles Franklin Award and South Australian Festival Prize for Fiction. A long story that became part of When Colts Ran was awarded the O. Henry Prize (USA) in 2008. A companion novel, The Following (2013) attracted readers as a eulogy to country life at the close of a hard era. McDonald maintains a writing interest with a new book every three or so years and has eight titles in print with Penguin Random House. His other novels are Slipstream, Rough Wallaby, Water Man, and The Slap.

As a writer with “a sure, steady command of how the Australian bush looks, smells and feels, in each season and in all types of weather” (Mark Thomas, Canberra Times) McDonald once swore “never to do water or grass”, but with his tenth novel, A Sea-Chase, he upends all that and goes to sea.

“Writing about the sea came as a revelation,” says McDonald, “partly the result of going to New Zealand every summer and sailing, starting with a 12ft dinghy and trying to keep up with Kiwis whose second nature off the rugby field is on the water. Partly too A Sea-Chase is inspired by lone sailing accounts, starting with sports’ autobiographies and ranging through to the diaries of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, which leave no reader in doubt there’s a spiritual dimension involved. Precise sea language glistens like freshly applied paint wherever it’s used, but also, I had to, in this story, keep hold of the driest, remotest pinch of Australian dirt and spread it into the Southern Ocean. How this feeds into the story, in fact makes it happen, was powerfully gratifying to me as a writer.”

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