Thursday 3 November 2016

I Know My Love by Catherine Gaskin

In 1982, Channel Ten produced a TV series based on Catherine Gaskin's novel, Sara Dane. I was 14 yrs of age at the time and the heady mix of historical fiction and romance ticked all my boxes. I became so enamoured of this genre and author, I went on to read my mother's entire bookshelf of Gaskin's many times over.

However my firm favourite, was I Know My Love.

I read it so many times during my teen years that I was almost word perfect!

It's a simple tale of two women - one quiet woman who had suffered adversity but carried on - stoic, determined, gritty. Emma was the Elinor Dashwood of the Ballarat goldfields.
The other woman was also strong and determined - but about getting what she wanted at all costs in as showy and glamorous way as possible. Rose was the Scarlett O'Hara of the outback, unlike Scarlett, though, when the going got tough, Rose never dug deep, she just sunk further into her bad ways.

Two women: one man.

Adam - tall, dark and brooding. Hard working, loyal and capable of making two very different women fall madly in love with him.

This could so easily have be just another historical romance pot-boiler, but Gaskin had a knack of getting the tone and style just right. Most of her books were well-written, easy to read, with natural dialogue and believable characters. I Know My Love was one of the best examples of her craft (I read at least 12 of her books during the 1980's, so I know my Gaskin's!)

Gaskin was born in Ireland in 1929 but her family moved to Coogee, Sydney when she was only three months old. Her first book was published at age 17.
She moved to London, married an American and lived in New York, then spent some time living in the Virgin Islands before moving back to Ireland. She returned to Sydney at the end of her life, where she died in 2009.

As a teen, I preferred her books set in Australia and in the Caribbean. I loved seeing Australian stories set in places I knew - there were so few of them for a teenage to read when I was growing up. Her Caribbean stories always made me think of Rochester's mad wife in the attic - they seemed exotic, sexy and dangerous to my young impressionable mind!

I was pleased that I Know My Love held up to an adult reread.
I would now classify these books as a comfort read thanks to the nostalgia factor, but probably not books I would seek out now.

I was also reminded why I wasn't surprised about the role of the women during the Eureka Stockade when I read Clare Wright's award winning book, The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka.
Books like this (and Henry Handel Richardson's, Fortunes of Richard Mahony) clearly showed the number and hard-working role of the women who lived on the goldfields of Victoria. It was only the history texts that forgot that women were there!



  1. I remember reading every Catherine Gaskin book I could find in the library many years ago Sara Dane stood up very well when I read it a while ago, but there are too many other books I want to read for me to seek out the rest of her work again

    1. That's how I felt after reading this too. Enjoyable, yes. Nostalgic, yes. But it's time for something new (to me).
      I've just started Ruth Park's Swords and Crowns and Rings - how had I never heard of this great award winning book before?

  2. Anonymous4/11/16

    Sorry, I put my comments on the Master mistake!
    I Know My Love, I can find the Australian book in my Dutch library
    but not on an Australian online book website! Oh the irony!
    Strong women were the backbone of outback. Live on the sheep shearing stations or around the goldfields during the rush was hard. Rose and Emma....I wonder if Gaskin touched one of the most important life decisions a womman makes...what did they think of marriage?
    Your comments about teen reading to hear them. I don't think my mother had a bookshelf! Well, not books for me anyways. Great review! What's next?

  3. I don't think I've ever read any Catherine Gaskin, or even knew that she was considered Australian. I'm learning so much already, and it's only the 4th.

  4. Anonymous11/12/16

    Love this Brona. I remember when all my friends were reading Gaskin (when they were also reading Georgette Heyer) but I didn't because I didn't read historical fiction. I'm so glad it's stood the test of time. Would you believe I have autographed copies here of Sara Dane and Dust in sunlight - to my husband's grandfather who was a journalist and book reviewer. I fear I can't part with them, even though I haven't read them.


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