Melissa Lucashenko

University of Queensland Press
3 October 2023


Melissa Lucashenko

When Mulanyin meets the beautiful Nita in Edenglassie, their saltwater people still outnumber the British. As colonial unrest peaks, Mulanyin dreams of taking his bride home to Yugambeh Country, but his plans for independence collide with white justice.

Two centuries later, fiery activist Winona meets Dr Johnny. Together they care for obstinate centenarian Grannie Eddie, and sparks fly, but not always in the right direction. What nobody knows is how far the legacies of the past will reach into their modern lives.

In this brilliant epic, Melissa Lucashenko torches Queensland’s colonial myths, while reimagining an Australian future.


‘Edenglassie’ was the original colonial name for Magandjin-Brisbane, a portmanteau of ‘Edinburgh’ and ‘Glasgow’. Half of Edenglassie the novel is set in 1854–55, the other half in 2024. Shuttling between these two time periods means Melissa Lucashenko can deliver us two versions of the country now known as Brisbane: one drawn from the colonial past, one from the very near future. This time-bounce, particularly to do with the 2024 section, works well given that this is a novel in which characters are continually referring to the past, and desperately peering into the future.

When Mulanyin, a young Goorie man, arrives in the fledgling township of Brisbane, he meets and befriends Tom Petrie, an up-and-coming whitefella who has learned the local Yagara language and sought permission from local Elders to select country on which to set up a cattle station. Mulanyin falls in with Tom, who seems trustworthy, and is soon bound to him by a complex net of language and obligation. But Mulanyin also meets Nita, the gorgeous, sassy young Goorie woman who works for the Petrie family, and their romance illuminates the first half of the novel. When these relationships, alight with idealism and humour, come to grief, we mourn for them. Lucashenko imagines deeply into the social world created after first contact, with its opportunity, creativity, tension and danger. She shows different cultural groups’ struggles to survive and thrive in a frontier community, and the ways in which they collaborate and clash.

The 1850s chapters deliver the tumultuous uncertainty of the times, with local Goorie people trying to establish when or if the Dagai (white people) will ever leave their shores. While in the chapters set in 2024, the 100-year-old Yagara woman Granny Eddie Blanket has ended up in hospital after a fall. Her foul-mouthed, hilarious granddaughter Winona arrives to help – and to entertain us with her acidic wit. When Doctor Johnny checks in on Granny Eddie, he checks out Winona and the other great romance in this book begins, though not without misadventure.

Edenglassie paints a nuanced picture of the complex weave of relationships between the colonists and Goorie people, as well as bearing witness to terrible acts committed on country – massacres, stolen children – but it retains a grim humour, a lightness of foot, and a palpable commitment to never giving up on the ongoing struggle for recognition and respect. It is a rage-informed, joyful, rollicking, straight-talking yarn of the strength and persistence of Goorie people in Brisbane since the coming of the Dagai.

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