05 March 2009


The Legendary Journey of Burke & Wills
by Sarah Murgatroyd

Text Publishing. Children's Non-Fiction, Young Adult, History, Australia. Paperback rrp $22.
Guest Reviewer - Anastasia Gonis

The Burke and Wills expedition is one of the most controversial expeditions in Australian history. The confusing choice of Robert O’Hara Burke as the leader has led to much debate. This extremely well-researched book (backed up with evidence throughout) points to his inexperience, non-existent leadership skills, complete disorganisation and lack of direction, which appear to be the reasons for the confusion that reigned throughout the expedition party. This adds to more questioning and scrutiny. So does the decision-making of the Exploration Committee, for their apathy and procrastination for the sake of saving money, cost many men their lives.

The book’s main asset is the personal focus on each member of this famous expedition, including the peripheral individuals that were involved in their lives. We get clear pictures of their backgrounds, family situations, talents and dreams, fears, strengths and weaknesses. We travel with the expedition, viewing the incredible stamina and determination of the men against the incredible odds of disease, lack of food and unbearable climatic conditions. At the end we are forced to acknowledge the indelible legacy that Sarah Murgatroyd has left for us.

Sarah Murgatroyd was born, and studied in England. She came to Australia in 1993 and was a current affairs reporter for the BBC. For her highly acclaimed book, The Dig Tree, she retraced the footsteps of Burke and Wills. But her writer’s life was cut short when she died of cancer in early 2002, some weeks after The Dig Tree was published. This is a Young Adult edition of that title with a rich Bibliography and Timeline for easy reference.

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