Posted by: Lisa Hill | October 30, 2009

Opening Lines: The Slow Natives by Thea Astley (1965)

The Slow Natives Thea Astley won her first Miles Franklin Award in 1962 with The Well Dressed Explorer , but she had to share it with George Turner for The Cupboard Under the Stairs.)

She won her second Miles Franklin, in her own right, with The Slow Natives in 1965.  These are the opening lines:

He’d first begun to steal when he was eleven.

No, they had both said, surprisingly in agreement, no, you may not have a six-stitcher.

He’d got a bit sick of arguing that October.  The heat was terrible,  The Terrace was a dried-up strip of sticky tar-paper.  Okay, he had said.  And he had gone into town and taken one from a city counter.  It was so easy there wasn’t even much fun in it.  And of course he couldn’t even use the ball but had to keep it hidden at the bottom of his play-box.  Fondling it in bed after his light was out, once he had dropped off to sleep with it against the pillow and when it had been discovered in the morning he became involved in a series of lies he was unable to sustain.  They kept on hoping for a long time that he had borrowed it from a schoolmate as he had insisted, but each knew that glossy red globe was bright with its own guilt, and he became so tired of their upset and accusing eyes he had walked down to the park near the ferry one afternoon and chucked it straight back into the river where it went bobbing off down the tide.  ‘I gave it back’, he announced at tea.  ‘Satisfied?’      (Penguin Books, 1990 p1 )

Author: Thea Astley
Title: The Slow Natives
Publisher: Penguin paperback
Year 1990
ISBN 9780140134117
Source: Personal Library


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