Sunday, March 20, 2011

Writing by Rules, Living by Rules: Carrie Tiffany and Everyman's Rules

Tiffany, Carrie. Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living. Oxford: Picador, 2006 (2005).

Carrie Tiffany's Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living begins with a burst of motion as the Better Farming Train carrying protagonist Jean Finnegan across Australia rumbles in and out of small rural towns, where Jean and her train-based colleagues hope to instruct townsfolk in the art of living scientifically. Some of the train's inhabitants are skilled cattle breeders, others know just how to nurture soil into producing more grain, and Mr. Ohno is even a chicken sexer. Jean works in a car with two other women who help women in the rural towns they visit to cook, sew, and care for children more efficiently (and scientifically).

After a few months on the train, Jean's adventures as a traveller are cut short by a burst of romance, and she departs the train with her beloved to establish a farm of their own. Yet despite her young and enthusiastic love, marriage and farm life in rural Australia soon prove to be a bit more difficult than Jean expected. As she attempts to be a proper Scientific wife, and her husband sows grain in a proper Scientific experiment, their lives are complicated by weather, neighbours, and even the simple complications of living together.

In many ways, this is a fairly slow read, as the book progresses at a languorous pace, describing personalities and science more than events and incidents, but for individuals interested in rural Australian life, or the development of agricultural science, or even (more generally) the daily frustrations of farmers and their families, Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living would be an excellent choice.

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