Thursday 4 December 2014

C is for Nancy Cato

Nancy Fotherington Cato was born 11th March 1917 in Glen Osmond, SA.

She studied English Literature at the University of Adelaide, then went onto work as a journalist and art critic.

She married Eldred De Bracton Norman in 1941 - they had two sons & one daughter.

They moved to Noosa in Qld where Cato became heavily involved in environmental and conservation issues. 

In 1984 she was made a Member of the Order of Australia for services to Literature & the environment.  In 1991 Cato received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Queensland.

Cato died on the 3rd July 2000 

She now has a Park and restaurant in Noosa named after her as well as a street in the new Canberra suburb of Franklin.

Cato is most well-known for her All the Rivers Run trilogy. 
It took her a decade to write but quickly became a bestseller. It was the success of this story in the US market that allowed Cato to give up journalism to focus on writing & conservation issues. 

Since the 1970’s the trilogy has usually been published as one book. It was made into a TV mini-series in 1983 starring Sigrid Thornton & John Waters, and of course, the Murray River!

This was how I was introduced to Nancy Cato and Philadelphia Gordon. Cato specialised in creating strong, gutsy outback women; as a young teen, I revelled in these types of romantic, heroic female stories. Mum also obviously loved this series because she bought the book soon after. We both devoured it.

Three years later we had our first family holiday to Victoria. 
We didn’t go to Melbourne or travel the Great Ocean Road or go to the! we went to Echuca to travel on a paddle steamer just like in All the Rivers Run!

A few years later I read Brown Sugar, but didn’t really enjoy it – my reading tastes had moved on by then. Although I did learn a lot about the Kanaka slave labourers used in the cane fields of Qld and Northern NSW in the late 1800’s.

Novels and short stories

  • All the Rivers Run (1958)
  • Time, Flow Softly : a novel of the River Murray (1959)
  • Green Grows the Vine (1960)
  • But Still The Stream: a novel of the Murray River (1962)
  • The Sea Ants: and Other Stories (1964)
  • North-West by South (1965)
  • Brown Sugar (1974)
  • Queen Trucanini (1976) (with Vivienne Rae Ellis)
  • Nin and the Scribblies (1976)
  • Forefathers (1983)
  • The Lady Lost in Time (1986)
  • A Distant Island (1988)
  • The Heart of the Continent (1989)
  • Marigold (1992)


  • The Darkened Window (1950)
  • The Dancing Bough (1957)


  • "Travellers Through the Night" in Noosa One-act Winners. Volume 2 (1994)


  • Mister Maloga : Daniel Matthews and his Mission, Murray River, 1864–1902 (1976)
  • The Noosa Story: A Study in Unplanned Development (1979). Second edition: 1982. Third edition: 1989
  • River's End (1989) with Leslie McLeay


  • Jindyworobak Anthology 1950
Cato was a good journalist, and her novels are strong on historical and environmental detail, 
less so on characterisations and narrative tension.” 
Susan Sheridan (2013)

Did you also get sucked into river life & want to travel along the Murray River thanks to All the Rivers Run? 

Have you had a favourite author/genre from your late teens that didn't survive into your adult reading years?

This post is part of Alphabe-Thursday with Jenny.


  1. Lots of good read here, great post for C

    Happy Week to you ~ artmusedog and carol (A Creative Harbor)

  2. I am glad that you posted about Nancy Cato. I was familiar with the 'All the Rivers Run' book but haven't read it. Did read of Nancy C. either.

  3. Hmm, I checked and All the Rivers Run is at my local library.... I'll have to check it out!

    1. I believe All the Rivers run was a huge success in the US in the 60's. I'm delighted it's still on your libraries shelves :-)

  4. That sounds like something I would love reading - I'll look for it!

  5. Thanks for the info...recently joined a local book club and will check her out♪

  6. Anonymous6/12/14

    She sounds like the exact opposite of Ruth Park. RP was very strong in characterization and less emphasis on the sense of place. Nancy Cato's All the Rivers Run sounds good, though.

    1. The sense of place was so strong that the mini series sparked a tourist boom along the entire Murray River, but especially around Echuca.
      It's fascinating when we rediscover a part of our history. The miniseries also sparked a resurgence in Australian classics being made into shows - including Ruth Park, Nevil Shute's A Town Like Alice, Thorn Birds, Catherine Gaskin's Sara Dane to name the ones I watched.

  7. I've only read All the Rivers Run (after the miniseries appeared - wow, that was an Australian TV game-changer, wasn't it?) but really should read more, given our mutual Adelaide connection.

    1. Yes there were so many Aussie classics turned into mini series back then. Are you old enough to remember the biggie that started it all in 1978 - Against the Wind - starring Jon English. It wasn't based on a book (I don't think) but it's when we fell in love with our history as a nation.

  8. She sounds charming. I'm going to try All the Rivers Run! I wonder if I could stream the TV series?

    This is a neat theme you have going here!

    Thanks for linking.


    1. Thanks Jenny...I just hope I can keep it up for all 26 letters :-}


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