We surveyed our customers to discover the Most Popular Aussie Novels of all time – we’re counting down the Top 24 Novels between now and Christmas Eve…
At #9 – Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park
31.8% of all respondents have read this book
Playing Beatie Bow is an Australian children’s book written by Ruth Park and first published in 1980.
The story is set in Australia and is about a girl named Abigail (christened Lynette when she was born) who travels back in time to colonial Sydney-Town in the year 1873, where she meets Beatie Bow, a girl whose name has become part of Abigail’s local folklore. Much of the book is set in real-life locations around Sydney’s historical Rocks district.
Lynette Kirk was a happy young girl who was a cheery about her parents and life, until the day her father went off with another woman leaving her and her mother (Kathy). Lynette wanted nothing to do with her father so she changed her name to try to get everything about him out of her life. After wanting to be named after a witch she changed her name to Abigail, which her grandmother suggested.
She went down to the park with her young next door neighbours Natalie and Vincent, finding them playing a game called, ‘Beatie Bow’. After becoming very interested in a little girl that stood there watching them play (Little Furry Girl) she decided to follow her. This was after having a fight with her mother, when she told Abigail that she had been seeing her father again and that he wanted the two of them to move back in with him and live in Norway where his architectural job was located. Abigail did not take this news well – She went for a walk to cool off, when she once again saw the little furry girl and following her found that she had followed her back into her own time in the 1800s. She got tripped over by the Little Furry Girl’s father who gave Abigail the injury of spraining her ankle and causing a bruise her head.
Further into the novel the character Granny (Alice Tallisker) told Abigail that she was ‘the stranger’ and had ‘the gift’. ‘The gift’ came from the crochet on the top of her dress which enabled her to travel and heal. Later in the book it mentions that the crochet was going to be made by Granny as she had already made plans for it.
She falls in love with Judah, who was betrothed to Dovey, and realised firsthand what it’s like to love somebody but not be able to have them. This helped Abigail realise that she should not be selfish towards her parents and should let them have a second chance of a decent life and marriage. Judah and Abigail share a kiss which Beatie is able to see from the shore.
Abigail finally manages to get back to her own time, she discovers that her neighbors Natalie and Vincent are the descendants of the Bow family. Abigail also finds out that Beatie grows up to be quite a well educated lady and Judah dies at sea after marrying Dovey. After Abigail returns from Norway with her parents she meets Natalie and Vincent’s uncle, who looks precisely the same as Judah, the two fall in love and Abigail tells him the story of how she went back in time.
Ruth Park AM is a New Zealand-born author, who has spent most of her life in Australia. She has won many literary awards. Her best known works are the novels The Harp in the South (1948) and Playing Beatie Bow (1980), and the children’s radio serial The Muddle-Headed Wombat (1951-1970), which also spawned a book series (1962-1982).
She was born in Auckland as Rosina Lucia Park, and her family later moved to Te Kuiti further south in the North Island of New Zealand, where they lived in isolated areas. During the Great Depression her working class father worked on bush roads, as a driver, on relief work, as a sawmill hand, and finally shifted back to Auckland as council worker living in a state house.
After Catholic primary school Ruth won a partial scholarship to secondary school, but this was broken by periods of being unable to afford to attend. Later she worked at the Auckland Star before shifting to Australia in 1942. There she married the Australian writer D’Arcy Niland.
When contracted in 1942 to write a serial for the ABC Children’s Session, she wrote the series The Wide-awake Bunyip. When the lead actor Albert Collins died suddenly in 1951, she changed its direction and The Muddle-Headed Wombat was born, with first Leonard Teale then John Ewart in the title role. The series ended when the radio program folded in 1970. Such was its popularity that between 1962 and 1982 she wrote a series of children’s books around the character.
The List so far…
#9 – Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park
#10 – A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
#11 – Puberty Blues by Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey
#12 – A Fortunate Life by A.B. Facey
#13 – Cloudstreet by Tim Winton
#14 – Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner
#15 – April Fool’s Day by Bryce Courtenay
#16 – The Harp in the South by Ruth Park
#17 – My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin
#18 – Jessica by Bryce Courtenay
#19 – My Place by Sally Morgan
#20 – For the Term of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke
#21 – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
#22 – Dirt Music by Tim Winton
#23 – Breath by Tim Winton
#24 – So Much to Tell You by John Marsden