Tanya Heaslip in Alice to Prague has written a partial autobiography about the middle years of her life in which she discovered a new world. The story begins in Alice Springs, where she and her family lived on a cattle station. She and her mother often danced around the kitchen to waltzes and music which inspired dreams of grand castles and ballrooms. Not unusual if you consider the permanent brightness and heat in which they lived.
At the end of her schooling Tanya wanted to study law and be in a position where she could help people less fortunate. After working for several years, her ambition to see those castles and travel became very strong and so she travelled to Czechoslovakia. Here she was lucky enough to find a job teaching English to senior students and staff; luckily, she could sing and play the guitar, and so a lot of her lessons involved traditional Australian songs which the students loved.
Tanya struggled for a long time. She had no language, no knowledge of the culture, and little money. Everything was a major chore; supermarket shopping was a nightmare. However, gradually she developed friendships, which helped her to settle, and the friends helped with advice.
Many issues arise which the author discusses. She begins to understand the “Australian Aboriginal concept of connection to Country… I now knew in my core that connection to country was a primal human need..”
Women friends in Prague discussed the concepts and ideas they were fed about “Westerners,” their greed and disregard of any culture or understanding, ideas which were perpetuated by the communist regime. The women agreed that if they’d had any outside contact with people like Tanya, they would have all been more understanding.
Gradually Tanya began to settle into a routine, with the dreary winter weather giving way to spring, a magical time to explore the old city and see the cobbled streets and spires. She found romance but the complexities of her situation present many issues. Perhaps the love wasn’t like “butterfly down,” so rare and special that it lasts forever.
We have all looked at the Christmas cards with snow and sleighs and castles, but for the author these scenes came to life and her little girl’s dream came true. This is a warm and tender look at special times in Tanya’s life, and the great friends she made along the way.
|Publisher||Allen and Unwin|
|Distributor||Allen and Unwin|