If you have read my review of the Sunlit Zone you might recall that I said I have enjoyed all the books on the Stella Longlist so far all bar one. This is the bar one.
The Mind of a Thief, by Patti Miller, is non-fiction which I don’t usually read a lot of as it’s generally not my thing. It is not that the book is badly written, it isn’t or it wouldn’t be on the Stella Longlist. It’s not that the book isn’t interesting. There was just a failure from me to connect with this book.
Miller is driven to write about the place of her childhood. She grew up in Wellington and her widowed mother still resides there. While wondering what and how to write about Wellington she comes across an interesting point of Aboriginal history in the Wellington area which she elaborates on in the book. This book is more than just reminiscing about her childhood, which would have been interesting in and of itself, and brings the past and the present together interweaving her personal story throughout. I found these snippets of history fascinating and perhaps that is where this book and I parted company. I wanted more of the local Aboriginal history, the politics and the personal stories behind it, which to her credit Miller explicitly states are not hers to tell. In weaving her story throughout it seemed to me that she was constantly centering her (white) narrative against the backdrop of the local Aboriginal history and current events concerning the Aboriginal population of her home town.
The process of examining your beliefs and learning and growing as a person is happening much more in the form of blogs these days rather than diaries that few people if any apart from the author ever read (although this is true for some blogs too). Perhaps it is that this particular story is written down in a single book and no comments are possible and without further reflections or future musings available from the author all we see is a single snapshot of the author’s mind in time. Perhaps she has changed some of her attitudes, or thought more deeply about some of the issues – without the need to write this story biting at her.
Or maybe it is just me, and that is okay too.
I am reading through the Stella Prize Longlist from 2013 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2014. The list can be found here.