Mavis Thorpe Clark welcomed all experiences as potential background for her books - context and character; environment and setting; issue and adventure. During her lifetime she travelled extensively in Australia, Asia and Europe, recording her impressions in notebooks as she went. She could weave her experience of a forest, an isolated railway siding, a remote Aboriginal campfire or a news clipping into a story, giving it a breadth and depth celebrated by her readers.

While each story is unique, there are a number of enduring themes in the fictional work by Mavis Thorpe Clark:

  • Recurrent themes - historical or contemporary setting, female and Aboriginal characters, search for identity and the dilemma of conservation vs development

The background for a number of books including The Min-Min and Spark of Opal unfolded during her travels in outback South Australia in the 1960s:

Upon her return from her first trip to outback South Australia with Harold Darwin, Mavis wrote "Books in the Outback", an article which appeared in People magazine, 15 March 1961.

Inspiration for The Min-Min

Inspiration for Spark of Opal

  • Coober Pedy - an opal-gouging town in the South Australian desert

Inspiration for Blue Above the Trees

  • Gippsland - cleared of native forests during the 1850s

Inspiration for Pony from Tarella

Inspiration for Iron Mountain

Inspiration for Pastor Doug: The Story of an Aboriginal Leader

  • Doug Nicholls - who grew up on an Aboriginal reserve and became the only Australian Aborigine to be honoured with a knighthood

Last Next

Desolate stony ground with windmill and shack in the distance.

South Australian gibber country, 1960.

Saltbush in the desert.

Saltbush, 1963.

Car and van in the desert.

Mavis and her husband Harold Latham travelled with Harold Darwin during the 1960s - this photo taken on their second trip in 1963.