Sunday, 11 December 2011

A Fortunate Life - A.B Facey (1981)

My great-aunt sent this in the mail for my mother, my sisters and I to read. It has been buried in the depths of our house until I begged Mum to dig it out for me. My great-aunt raved about this book and insisted that we should all read it. She bought the book at an op-shop and it is in tatters. In my opinion, the more beat up a book is, the better it wil be.

This book is eye-opening. It reminds me a lot of Sewell's famed Black Beauty and a little bit of Boy. It is an autobiography about a man who went through a life filled with unimaginable hardships, yet still believed that he was lucky. He pushes at every boundary and takes all the chances he can, and unlike many  he actually lived his life to the fullest. At eighty-two, he wrote this book, with encouragement from his wife and children, having been known as the family storyteller.

Albert, or Bert, and his various sibling were raised by his grandmother. He become one mouth too many to feed and was sent off to various jobs as a farmer's boy.  Some were good, some were not and in one place he was whipped half to death by drunks. He never had the chance to go to school so this limited his options. He became a  good boxer and travelled in a boxing circus and was never once defeated. Bert enlisted in WW1 and survived, but not without injuries that further limited his career options.

He married Evelyn, a woman he received a parcel from whilst in the trenches. They had many children and he worked as a tram driver. When that proved too hard with his war disability, he and his family relocated back to the country. This served them well, until the Depression hit. They then moved back and Bert became a tram driver once more.  Their sons enlisted in WW2 and one, Barney, was killed. This has a big effect on his wife, and she was never quite the same. After "fifty-nine years, eleven months and twelve days" (page 322) Evelyn died, leaving behind a shadow of her husband. Yet after all this, Albert reflects on his life and is extremely satisfied.

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