4 out of 4 stars
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Growing up in a farming community in Queensland, Australia, in the 1950s was fraught with adventures and dangers. A carefree childhood, a shared responsibility, and close calls are the threads that bind John's childhood memories. This life journey is extraordinary in a larger-than-life yet straightforward way, bringing us close to memories we can relate to as well as opening up a new world of varying experiences. In Staying Alive: Surviving Tropical North Queensland and Beyond by John Aylmer, the wild country of North Queensland comes alive in vivid narratives of a boyhood filled with adventures and daring feats. It is nostalgic as well as intriguing, and there is no dull moment.
John Aylmer's story might have happened in a different time and setting than the one we can identify with, but the curious adventures of a young mind and the lucky breaks are something to which we can all relate. With the aid of colorful and detailed pictures and the author's simple yet encompassing narrative style, history is painted beautifully — history through a first-hand witness's eyes. For readers who were born during the timeline in the book and can relate to the era, I can safely say that it will read like a journey down memory lane — a beautiful reminder of how the rugged countryside tend to produce the toughest people as embodied by "The Spirit of Endurance."
I must commend the author for his use of images and detailed descriptive style to make this story enjoyable and informative. It felt like traveling back through time, and the experience is awe-inspiring. It is tempting to call the plot's timeline 'the good old days,' but I suppose every era has its good and bad moments. Due to this book's nature, 'the good' is the central theme, and the objective is to recall fun memories. There are, of course, moments when the author had some close calls as he encountered the wild, the mellow, and the 'mad' men. In all, there is something intriguing happening on every page, with pictures to stimulate the senses.
The editing of this book is commendable. Errors are next to none, and events are organized in chapters, each dealing with a specific topic. The use of Australian English spices up the tales, and for non-Australian readers, it is an opportunity to learn some interesting alternative names of things. My only complaint is that something has to be done about the subtitle on the cover page. Maybe it is the font style or color, but it could be a hassle to make out the words.
I will recommend this lovely book to readers who love mild adventure stories. There aren't a lot of out-of-the-world adventures, but then, that is what makes it relatable. So, readers with realistic expectations of life in the sixties and seventies would find this book worth their while. I will rate this well-written book a 4 out of 4. It is filled with adventure, memories, and life lessons.
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