BOOK REVIEW: The Oldest Song in the World (Sue Woolfe, Fourth Estate)

The Oldest Song in the World is quite an incredible book. The story, with its mix of themes, is full of tension and interest. Kate is sent to a town outside Alice Springs to record an Aboriginal song that may be the oldest song in the world. She wants to go because she suspects the long-lost man in her life might be there. This sets up an interesting situation as Kate stumbles into a changed environment. She doesn’t understand local customs and makes blunders in communicating with Aboriginal people. She has dyed her hair and done much to change her appearance. And as she can’t find the woman who owns the song, Kate is forced to spend time settling in. Adrian, who may or may not be ‘her’ man, is her host, bossing her about and controlling her movements but also helping her stay out of trouble. A lot happens to Kate: she wants to help in the local school, she learns to cope with intermittent electrical supply, she is allowed to be on the edge of a night of local dancing, and so on. She also meets some very odd white people who display astounding attitudes to Aboriginal people in their fields of medicine, education and town duties. It all works though, and is totally engaging. I could tell you what happens but then you would miss the fun of this great story.

Clive Tilsley is the owner and director of Fullers Bookshop with almost 40 years in the trade. This review first appeared in the June/July issue of Bookseller+Publisher Magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.