Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living
is a deceptively
simple first novel narrated by Jean who meets Robert while working on board the
Better Farming Train as a seamstress educator. Robert's ideology embodies
the spirit of the train, and of the era - he is convinced that science can
conquer all and before long the newly-weds are setting up home in the Mallee
(see sidebar) so that he can prove his theories in this particularly unforgiving
landscape. Before long the cracks in his ideology begin to show, theory is
one thing, the Mallee is another.
Throughout, Tiffany (an agricultural journalist living in Melbourne) explores
the themes of man against nature, and the nature of man against man, but she
also captures a big slice of social history, illustrating the incredible
hardships of the time - the great depression, extensive years of drought,...
Beyond the Book
The Better Farming Train
did exist just as described in Tiffany's book;
it steamed out of Melbourne for the first time in October 1924 and returned for
the last time in 1935, making about 38 tours in total. At each of its 10
stops between 500 to 2000 farmers and townspeople would attend the exhibits. You
can browse a range of pictures of the train and its destinations
here. In the top left you'll see the words "Browse Photo Collection"
in red. Click any of the numbers underneath to see photos (we thought
this a particularly fine image)
Robert and Jean set up home in the Mallee
, a district in far
north-western Victoria, south of the Murray River (the state of Victoria is in the south-east of Australia, see map). The Mallee is so named because...