The Drover's Wives review: Ryan O'Neill's brilliant riffs on the Lawson story
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The Drover's Wives review: Ryan O'Neill's brilliant riffs on the Lawson story

The Drover's Wives

Ryan O'Neill

The Drover's Wives. By Ryan O'Neill.

The Drover's Wives. By Ryan O'Neill.

Brio, $26.99

Beginning with Henry Lawson's original story The Drover's Wife, Ryan O'Neill then re-tells it in 95 different genres and forms. Whether as a gossip column, a PowerPoint presentation, a list of answers to a cryptic crossword, or as any of the other equally wacky variations, it is always a recognisable tale full of insight and pathos. This is true even of the story told as an internet comments thread, which runs the gamut of the comments and characters one habitually encounters in such a thread, and of the story as told in emojis, which of course involves no words at all. As you work through this brilliantly clever and funny book, you realise that this is a sustained exercise in unorthodox literary criticism. You also gain a new understanding of the reasons why Lawson's story has endured as an Australian classic for over a century.