Book Review – The Balfour Correspondent by James Dryburgh

 

Balfour

I’m reviewing something a little bit different this time.

The Balfour Correspondent is not a novel. It’s a collection of letters sent by 14 year old Sylvia M’Arthur from Balfour, on Tasmania’s West Coast, to the ‘Young Folks’ page of Launceston’s ‘Weekly Courier’ in 1912, and interspersed with replies from James Dryburgh, writing from Hobart one hundred years later.

Through Syvlia’s letters there is a glimpse of a world and time completely different from our own. At the time of writing, Syliva and her family had just moved to Balfour, a small town consisting of a handful of shops and a small school. They’d moved there because of the mine, where her father had work.

Now, there is almost nothing left of Balfour. It’s been reclaimed by the forests that surround it, and James Balfour’s response to Sylvia’s letters speaks of this, and of what has changed in our world in general in the hundred years or so since Sylvia lived, and what has stayed the same.

It’s a fascinating, and in some places, terribly sad read. And it makes me wonder what other gems are lurking in our newspapers, waiting to be found.

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