Anne Whitehead

Paradise Mislaid Reviews

Paradise Mislaid Reviews

Winner - 1998 NSW Premier's Australian History Award

1998 NSW Premier's Australian History Prize - Judges' Citation

‘An erudite, beautifully researched work of history which knits together the stories of Paraguay and Australian emigration as a quest for Utopia, and the author’s personal desire to know how these stories inform Australian history. Whitehead utilises material which was not available to earlier historians…The result is a beautifully-crafted historical and contemporary travelogue.’

Shortlisted in 1998 for: Kibble Literary Award for Women Writers; Dobbie Award for a First Published Book; The Age Book of the Year selection.

Extracts from reviews:

" ... What emerges is a superb blend of travel writing and history, during which Whitehead casts her discerning eye on the present, with pertinent excursions to the past. This personal odyssey has resulted in a blockbuster paperback which is totally engaging and beautifully written... a wonderful, rambunctious, passionate, picaresque narrative that combines meticulous research with compelling personal stories and acute observation. One is swept irresistibly along, like a raft of camelote - floating water hyacinths - down the mighty Parana River. "
Tim Bowden
Sydney Morning Herald, 18 April 1998
" Whitehead looks at this Australo-Paraguayan community, and her narrative encompasses the original expedition and a survey of Paraguay's often tragic history. Whitehead's book, winner of the New South Wales Premier's Award, has the intensity of the novel combined with the attentiveness to detail of a good travelogue, and gives a deserved prominence not only to the Paraguayan experiment but also to Australian-Latin American relations in general. "
Antipodes, USA, Dec 1999
" Whitehead has produced a travel book within a carefully researched and densely documented historical frame extending across six hundred pages. She is a skillful raconteur and the reader is carried along, largely unmindful that she has used the "Australian Tribe" as a peg on which to suspend her personal reminiscences of Paraguay. Her style strongly resembles the work of Paul Theroux and V.S. Naipaul... Paradise Mislaid offers attentive readers an object-lesson in what sets ethnography or history apart from journalism or autobiography in the study of globalization and transnationalism. "
Robert A. Hackenberg
Transforming Anthropology, Vol 12, 2004
" ... the book's real impact derives from the setting of this curious tale in its wider context, amid the tragedy of Paraguayan history... Whitehead gradually widens the historical frame around the family stories of the colonists and their descendants, back to the subjugation of the Paraguayan Indians by the Spanish and Portuguese, and forward to our own time. "
James Harper
Courier-Mail, 27 Dec 1997
" Anne Whitehead's Paraguay is not exactly the land of milk and honey, but it is Utopia all the same, the intoxicating stuff on which obsession feeds... Paradise Mislaid begins with the departure of the little sailing ship bark Royal Tar from Sydney Harbour, laden to the Plimsoll line with hopes and dreams. It then weaves narratives of finely researched history, anecdote, romance, travelogue, meticulous detail and crafted story through time and place, character, legend, fiction and fact. "
Angela Bennie
Sydney Morning Herald, 30 May 1998
" Leon Cadogan [Curator of Indians in Paraguay of the late 1950s] was one of the tribe of descendants of the Australian dreamers of one hundred years ago, a tribe that Anne Whitehead explored in three visits over the past fourteen years. She is brave enough to describe her quest as an obsession. Usually obsessions don't produce good books, but Paradise Mislaid is very good, a subtle and intelligent blend of history and reportage.

The descendants of the tribe are a fascinating cross-section...Inevitably to follow the families is to create a portrait of Paraguayan life in the past century - a distinct mixture of good times, bad times, of dictators and war. To understand those years, the history of the country has to be traversed. Whitehead does all this with skill and understanding. She has probably the best written account of the Jesuit communes, where the Jesuits defended their converts from the slave traders, communes which lasted two hundred years, almost as long as European settlement in Australia. "
Richard Hall
Australian Book Review, Feb-March 1998
'This is a remarkable book, a spell-binding story, masterfully told, concerning the “Australian Tribe” – Spanish-speaking South Americans whose speech is peppered with Australianisms like “tucker”, “boil the billy” and “fair dinkum” ... Whitehead travelled extensively to speak with these descendants, to sift their recollections and to record their personal stories. The narrative of her journeys is in the tradition of the very best of travel books and, weaving an intricate web with the stories of the Utopians and their descendants, brings the whole to vivid life.' 
Lionel Farrell
Newcastle Herald, 14 March 1998
'... a major achievement... many ripping yarns indeed. This is at once a travel book, an erudite work of history and a passionate personal testament to the people who survived one of Australia's most adventurous gambits abroad.'
Brisbane Review, 3 Dec 1997
" This mixture of past with present magically makes the past contemporary... Ms Whitehead also excels as a travel writer and if only for her descriptions of the South American countries and the long rivers snaking their way through Paraguay the book is well worth buying... Ms Whitehead gives a sympathetic account of the Jesuit mission in Paraguay. She tells which Australian colonists fought in the British Army in WWI (some at Gallipoli), and which descendants, who considered themselves Paraguayans, fought Bolivia in the Chaco War of the 1930s... This is a major historical work, a serious social and psychological survey and a fascinating travel book, all between two covers. "
Frank O'Connell
Catholic Weekly, 21 Dec 1997
" .. Anne Whitehead had a rich vein to mine. She has done so with rigorous historical method, and the flair of a writer with much to contribute also to the annals of Australian biography or fiction. She deserves the NSW Premier's Award for History with a book which shows beyond a doubt that history can be far from dull and not least for being passionately felt and intimately communicated. "
Jenny Palmer
Community History, No 3 July 1998
" ... that bizarre story of 500 true Australians who, almost a quarter of a century before the Russian revolution under the leadership of an English journalist, William Lane, put behind them the frustrations of the 1891 shearers' strike to found a socialist utopia, a New Australia, in the Paraguayan jungle... It's an interesting idea to seek out the descendants of that dream... Whitehead grew fond of those old men with their sexual innuendo and lanky elegance... "
Jim Morgan
Australian Review of Books, March 1998
" ... an exhaustive yet entertaining piece of historical detective work which is at once authoritative, scholarly and delightfully chatty... due to Whitehead's own indefatigable physical adventures, it's also a travel adventure to rival novelist Bruce Chatwin's wanderings. "
The Leader,13 Jan 1998
 'In Paradise Mislaid... Anne Whitehead was pursuing the historian's endless quest to bring back into present memory the always receding reality of the past. But Whitehead's journey was not made only in the mind or in the archives: it had a literal dimension, involving following physically "in the steps of" her subject. This led to an interesting relationship between past and present in her work, a layered intercutting, sometimes positing connection, sometimes disjunction. The effect was analogous to the intercutting techniques of documentaries, and it's not surprising to find that Whitehead has worked extensively as a television producer, film director and scriptwriter. It also offered, in a way, a gentle rebuff to any undeconstructed readerly yearning for the complete and logically sequential narrative that we might once have thought history could give us...'
Jennifer Strauss
Australian Book Review, August 2003
" History brought alive through its relevance and lingering influences on contemporary lives. Highly readable and highly recommended. "
Craig Cormick
Blast, 10 Dec 1997
" This is a racy narrative in two parts. The first explores the motives that impelled the small bands of colonists to set out from Australia and Britain... The second section of the book fascinatingly follows the lives of the generations of the descendants of the Australian colonists... Whitehead's extensive research is complemented by her two visits to Paraguay, where she learned of its terrain and its weather, and met and befriended descendants of the Australians who had arrived in the 1890s. "
Peter Pierce
Canberra Times, 29 Nov 1997
" Ms Whitehead has added a fascinating dimension by revisiting the scenes of action - Barcaldine in Queensland and the two settlements in Paraguay, and meeting descendants of some of the participants. In doing so her narrative also becomes an entertaining modern travelogue... It's a big book, this, 630 pages, but easy reading right to the end. "
Noel Shaw
Launceston Examiner, 6 Dec 1997
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