WINNER ~ INDIE AWARDS 2014 - BEST NON-FICTION
ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- As the author tells us in his acknowledgements, when he was younger it seemed to him that Australian history was all about criminals and sheep and bored him to tears. But in working on an idea for a television comedy, he discovered that it was more than that - it was fascinating, and more unexpectedly, funny. Then he found an article in Quadrant suggesting it was impossible to write an intentional satire on Australian history, and he decided to prove them wrong!
Girt begins with the European explorers who didn't discover Australia. Or just found bits of the fabled southern continent, without realising what they were bumping up against. It then backtracks to the Unoriginal Non-Inhabitants (well, terra nullius meant Britain didn't have to pay for claiming the continent if nobody lived here) and then continues on with the jolly adventures of Captain Cook (who wasn't - he was Lieutenant in 1770, but it just doesn't have the same ring) and Sir Joseph Banks. This all leads to the problem of English law and its 215 crimes which could see you set a date with a hangman, the revolting colonies of America, and where do you stash a heap of lower class convicts when your inadequate gaols are a tad overfull? We are introduced to various convicts, governors and criminals of the military sort (who were often worse blaggards than the assorted cloth stealers, poachers and forgers who were sentenced to transportation). The story stops with the recall of Lachlan Macquarie, but only after he had named an assortment of natural features after himself and upset people of worth by insisting on town planning and treating convicts as if they were people of worth.
This is a positively entertaining read, the level of satire is sustained at an equal pitch throughout, whilst remaining true to facts. Chosen by many booksellers around the country as their favourite non-fiction book of the year, it is on the non-fiction shortlist for the Indie Awards 2014 (of which I am one of the judges) and I think it will appear on other award lists as the year goes by!
'Girt will appeal to readers who enjoyed John Birmingham's Leviathan as much as lovers of Chaser-style satire and the humour of John Clarke.' - Books+Publishing
In this hilarious history, David Hunt tells the real story of Australia's past from megafauna to Macquarie ... the cock-ups and curiosities, the forgotten eccentrics and Eureka moments that have made us who we are. Mark Twain wrote of Australian history: 'It does not read like history, but like the most beautiful lies ... but they are all true, they all happened.' Hunt uncovers these beautiful lies, recounting the strange and ridiculous episodes that conventional histories ignore. The result is surprising, enlightening - and funny.
Our nation's beginnings were steeped in the unlikely, the incongruous and the frankly bizarre. Girt explains the role of the coconut in Australia's only military coup, the Dutch obsession with nailing perfectly good kitchenware to posts, and the settlers' fear of Pemulwuy and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamingcoat. It introduces us to forgotten heroes like Mary McLoghlin, transported for the typically Irish crime of 'felony of sock'; Patyegarang, the young Eora girl who co-authored the world's most surprising dictionary; and Trim the cat, who beat a French monkey to become the first animal to circumnavigate Australia.
Girt restores these stories to their rightful place. Not to read it would be un-Australian.