Set in Sydney over two distinct eras, Playing Beatie Bow begins in 1985, with teenager Abigail discovering that she can communicate beyond the grave with a person who lived in Sydney in 1873. As their communications continue, Abigail suddenly finds herself transported back in time, where she discovers a great deal more about herself than she would have done had she remained a discontented teen in modern times. Through her adventures, she also contributes to the lives of those around her.
Radio adaptation of Playing Beatie Bow in three parts by British script-writer Joe Dunlop.
Unit Suitable For
AC: Year 7 (NSW Stage 4)
Colonial and contemporary Sydney, coming of age, family, hardship, identity, Language, poverty, resilience, the past, time travel
Critical and creative thinking, Information and communication technology, Literacy, Personal and social
'Ruth Park’s Playing Beatie Bow (1980) is a fantastical, time-travel novel that is also fascinated with lived history. It is especially interested in the question of how, that is through what means and forms, our past is remembered and mediated. Do we remember the past through what is recorded in official archives and taught on school and university curricula? Or are there other ways of accessing what took place before our own time? It is a children’s nursery rhyme and a discarded piece of old cloth that enable the transportation of Playing Beatie Bow‘s Abigail Kirk back to Sydney’s The Rocks in 1873, suggesting that popular song and ephemeral objects can open historical horizons and be the catalyst for reconstructing meaningful stories.' (Introduction)
Marquis analyzes works from Australia, New Zealand and the U.K. to suggest that time-slip fiction "for all its pleasure in the historical moment, articulates anxiety that puts the present into question, not so much child's play as games of the dark" (63). Her discussion of Ruth Park's Playing Beatie Bow claims that the novel seems to 'guard against the recognition of a problematic colonial past' (63), through the constrcution of a 'complicated family history' which Marquis argues, serves to occlude the larger colonial history of relations between the settlers and the indigenous population, who 'barely rate a mention' (61). Here, Marquis draws upon the work of Clare Bradford, who she says, 'has repeatedly shown this is a history of invasion, accommodated by white authors in a variety of textual moves that in general discount the singularity of the aboriginal experience and the historical depth of their relation with the land' (see Bradford, 1997). Marquis argues that the narrative dynamic obscures this local history through a 'double anchoring of the legitimate past in a European moment' and the ways it invests the domestic order - the love story - with irrestible power (61). She proceeds with a comparative analysis of Spirits of the Lake by New Zealand author Beverly Dunlop claiming that ''the absence of the indigene seems more noteworthy [if read] alongside another novel that is equally concerned with home and family' (61).
We are happy... see this page