The plant pictured above is the Australian yam daisy or murnong and it plays a significant part in this week’s #BookSnapSunday book Desire Lines by Felicity Volk. It is also sometimes called the Australian dandelion since it is very similar in appearance to the dandelion. The yam daisy is an indigenous dietary staple, farmed by our first peoples but its existence was severely compromised by sheep farming . I have a great fondness for the common dandelion at the best of times, it is one of nature’s survivors and and it has such an unassuming resilient beauty. I seem to have no trouble in growing dandelions in the back yard so I am hoping to get some yam daisy seeds or plants, then I can say; ” what weeds, those, they are part of my carefully cultivated veggie garden”. Joking aside, we really should be looking at cultivating more bush tucker in our dry conditions, nurturing plants that can in turn nurture us.
Desire lines tells a love story against the backdrop of horticulture and architecture in our emerging modern nation and how our identity is entwined with colonisation, immigration, and sometimes violence. It is about the narratives we tell to protect ourselves and create acceptable meaning out of traumatic history. Lying and truth telling are important themes in this unconventional love story: “The truth is more important than the facts.” (p189).
Desire lines, a concept in landscape architecture, are the paths we choose rather than the paths that are laid out. In Volk’s novel, desire lines becomes a rather eloquent metaphor for life. Evie, born to educated middle class parents seems destined to follow in her father’s footsteps into the law but she is deeply drawn to the natural world and botany. Paddy escapes the poverty and violence of his life in London when his parents surrender him to the child migration scheme which sees him sent to an Australian farm school. Paddy escapes from the life planned out for him by virtue of his ability and instead finds himself designing the ornaments of a modern democracy. Building symbols of national identity in the heart of Australia’s capital Canberra. The novel takes place at a time when Australia was emerging as a modern independent nation. It touches on issues like the role of women, colonisation and immigration told through the unconventional love story of Evie and Paddy.
Desire Lines is a gripping story right from the opening line; “Are you still a liar?” Volk beautifully evokes places and times and keeps you turning pages. I loved the evocation of places like the Blue Mountains and Canberra our capital, a place that lives in my memory. I loved Evie’s defence of Australian flora but mostly I love what is a good story.
#BookSnapSunday is a weekly bookish Instagram meme hosted here at Gum trees and Galaxies.com, if you would like to join in please feel free to leave a link to your post in the comments below. All you have to do is post an image of a book. Happy reading!