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Gardens of Fire: An investigative memoir
The Black Saturday bushfires of 7 February 2009 were the most catastrophic in Australia’s history. One hundred and seventy three people lost their lives and over two thousand homes were destroyed.
Award winning historian and writer Robert Kenny had a sound fire plan and he was prepared. But the reality of the fire was more ferocious and more unpredictable than he could have imagined. By the end of the day, his house and the life contained within were gone.
Gardens of Fire extends his experience of being engulfed by flames to an investigation of the human relationship with fire. This extraordinary and compelling history explores European and Aboriginal mythologies of fire along with the pragmatics of the fire in the hearth.
This is at once an intimate memoir and a meditative analysis of the reality that, as humans, we are children of fire.
Won – 2014 Victorian Community History Awards for History Publication
Shortlisted – 2014 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Non-fiction
Shortlisted – 2014 MUBA (Small Press Network)
Shortlisted - 2016 Adelaide Festival Non-Fiction Award
Praise for Gardens of Fire:
Kenny’s dramatic descriptions of the fire, how it moved through his property, and his reactions to the situation in which he found himself are extraordinary pieces of writing: compact, emotionally compelling, free of cliché and melodrama.AUSTRALIAN BOOK REVIEW
A brave and honest book, perhaps the finest writing to come out of the catastrophic 2009 Victorian bushfires … Cleverly structured with dual narratives, this is a quiet revelation: a great literary contribution, both personal and analytical, to the works on fire in Australia.JUDGES' REPORT, VICTORIAN PREMIER'S LITERARY AWARDS
There is a power in the way Kenny combines narratives from the mythology and science of fire. But it is ultimately the personal narrative that makes this book. It is the astonishingly calm, often witty and self-critical account of the author’s experience ... This is a worthy, lyrical and moving book.CAMILLA NELSON, THE CONVERSATION
This book’s terrible beauty is the price that humanity pays for taming the destructive power of fire. Wearing his learning lightly but with lyrical intensity, Robert Kenny traces this Promethean theme through the cultural traditions that converge in contemporary Australia. Indigenous Australians had it right. The rest of us ignore their understanding of fire at our peril.PATRICK WOLFE, LA TROBE UNIVERSITY, AUTHOR OF SETTLER COLONIALISM
Gardens of Fire offers a tapestry of personal testimony, historical meditation and mythological reflection that is brilliant, moving and powerful. Robert Kenny’s account of Black Saturday and its aftermath is uncompromising in its honesty and self-scrutiny. This book, new in our literature of fire, is a compelling tragicomedy, sometimes black, always witty, and deeply poignant.TOM GRIFFITHS, W. K. HANCOCK PROFESSOR, AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, AUTHOR OF FORESTS OF ASH