Australia, 1934. Jean Finnegan is a quiet young woman who has taken a post on the ‘Better Farming Train’ – a train that travels around rural areas presenting information for those in these areas. When the men attend talks on grain and animals, the women learn about sewing, cooking and child rearing. Over months, Jean finds herself with two male admirers; the mysterious Japanese chicken sexer, Mr Ohno, and the odd grain and soil expert, Robert Pettergree. She marries Robert and set up their own farm, where he experiments with his theories on grain production. Both discover things do not always go to plan.
Tiffany’s writing is beautiful and to be savoured. Throughout the novel, she builds up a tension in Finnegan that is subtle yet all-consuming, and I just wanted to grab her and shake her and tell her that she had other choices, other options. For me, this is what fiction is all about; getting caught up in the life of a character and wanting to be involved.
Tiffany won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript for Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living. It won a number of awards and was shortlisted for both the Miles Franklin Award and the Orange Prize for Fiction.