I first met author, Anne Richards, at the Brisbane Writers Festival Launch and was intrigued by the sound of her story, A Book Of Doors. Her novel was published by AndAlso Books and is a memoir telling of Anne’s life growing up in Brisbane in the 60’s and 70’s. Brisbane was a very different place then and not a place where women were encouraged to speak out. Yet this novel is one woman’s story of her search for truth and equality, rights for all and the consequences that haunted her life by standing up for what she believed was right.
Anne was just beginning her journey in life. She was an 18 year old second year Arts student at the University of Queensland, already enmeshed in her political rights journey. After leaving a pamphlet around her home about the May, 1970 Vietnam Moratorium, Anne’s story begins with a conversation with her father.
“You don’t go near that Moratorium girl or you’ll be out of my house! I will not have a Communist living under my roof.”
And that was final…. Anne found herself homeless at 18. She never did get the key to the door of her family home. This may shock younger readers but she is not the only young woman I know who was kicked out of home for going against the wishes of her father. Queensland at that time was a patriarchal police state and the rights of women were only just beginning to be recognised.
Anne did attend that Moratorium and created a new family, filled with like minded students and their friends, who all lived together in rambling Queenslanders dotted around the city. I remember driving past these ‘ hippie houses’ as a young girl and marvelling at the freedom of those who lived within. Anne’s story is peopled by University radicals and activists whose actions and lives weave deftly through one woman’s story of family, love and life.
The story holds a mirror to recent historical events including the Springbok Tour, the growing Black Lives movement, the growth of Women’s Rights, the Vietnam Moratorium and details the changes which came about because of the ambitious Nimbin Aquarius Festival of 1973. It reflects the state in which I grew up, a police state ruled by Joh Bjelke Petersen, where student radicals and minorities were constantly harassed by the powers that be…. still they fought on. One young activist, Peter Beattie, even became Premier.
There are names you will know: Bob Katter, Geoffrey Rush and Bille Brown. All grew up in this time of change and ultimately flourished. There are some great descriptions of Brisbane and surrounds you will recognise. Photos are dotted throughout the book.
There are events which may only be a distant memory which Anne describes in skilful detail. This story made me laugh, cry, gasp and for a child who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, it often had me nodding along and remembering. Sometimes the only way to move forward is to look to the past and see how very far we have come.
Anne’s story is witty and self deprecating, yet will tug at your heart and open your mind. It’s filled with music, poetry, art , literature and nostalgia from the time. Anne’s stories of young love are especially poignant.
Today Anne is still at University, where she teaches literature and communication at Griffith University, where doors were opened to her creative thinking. It’s where she first germinated this idea with her novella ‘ Demonstrating Defiance’ which was published in the 2018 Griffith Review 62.
For anyone who remembers what it was like growing up in Queensland in this era it will give you an insight into the feelings of one who lived through it. A Book of Doors is a raucous gem of a novel which will put into perspective the recent Black Lives Matter, Refugee and Climate Change protests and the March 4 Justice. It captures Queensland in a time of revolutionary change and after events of 2020 it will show that the decisions we make, the steps we take and the doors we open and shut to others can have consequences far beyond ourselves.
Freelance writer, wife and mother of three sons, occasional supply teacher and aspiring romance author, Michelle Beesley can be most often found in a coffee shop chatting with friends or beside a rugby field cheering on her favourite teams.
Michelle is a prolific—albeit reluctant—traveller, keen walker, bookworm and yoga enthusiast who loves anything pink or sparkly (including champagne!).