The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough is the fictitious tale of three related women, two sisters (one widowed), and the daughter of the widow living in genteel poverty among their well-to-do relations in the fictitious town of Byron in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, Australia. The book was published in 1987, 16 years after my first visit to Australia. In 1971, I rented a car in Sydney and drove a half circle from Sydney to Melbourne to Adelaide and then across country following the Murray River (Australia’s largest) to the nation’s capital, Canberra, and through the Blue Mountains back to Sydney.
The Blue Mountains got their name from the way eucalyptus oil in the air colors the landscape blue. Missalonghi or Missolonghi is the spot on the west coast of Greece where Lord Byron met an untimely death. Bryon was an English poet and adventurer who assisted Greece in its efforts for independence from Turkey. Missalonghi of the title is the name of the house where the three ladies lived.
On my first visit to Australia, I spent three weeks there and enjoyed myself thoroughly. I drove from one major city to another and found that the countryside was mostly empty of people. Most Australians live in the coastal cities. The scenery is much like California, but the flora and fauna are quite different. I made a short excursion by air from Melbourne to the island of Tasmania which reminded me of Washington state. All in all, a memorable trip and I returned twice more.
I am re-reading the short novel now for the second or third time. I now own an autographed copy of the book. I think that reading any book is a meeting of minds between the reader and the author. When I hold an autographed copy in my hands, one touched by the author, I consider it a double meeting, one of mind to mind and one of touch to touch. And when the author is describing a place that we both have visited, it is even more enjoyable.
- Lord Byron: The celebrity diet icon (bbc.co.uk)
- Anne McCullagh Rennie, author of Under Southern Skies, answers Ten Terrifying Questions (booktopia.com.au)