Inspiration for The Min-Min


Mavis Thorpe Clark observed a young teenager at this isolated railway station - "Sylvie" became the main character in The Min-Min:

"There was one girl older than the rest who stood out. She may have been 14. Her face was old, eyes lined underneath and sore...

The tired lined face of the older girl remained with me. I did not even know her name; but she remained with me. I gave her the name of Sylvie...

Harold D. had revealed to me a whole new world. He had given me this whole new world, this beautiful ugliness, and Sylvie, the girl I did not speak with and whose real name I never knew."

- Trust the Dream (1999) pages 135-137.

Mavis Thorpe Clark captures the poverty and drunkenness in her descriptions of this railway siding family:

"She slammed the door shut and shot past (her father). Even so she caught the stinging swing of his open palm on her bare leg.

"That's right - get your monkey-face out of it!" he snarled.

Just for a second, the girl stood in the doorway, her hand to her leg. "I'm too big to hit," her voice trembled with tears and anger and disappointment. "Mum says I'm too big to hit!"

"You'll never be too big as long as you're in my house girl - never too big."

Sylvie didn't wait for him to get to his feet. She sped along the passage and into the bedroom she shared with Ruby and Ann. She didn't put on the light. Quickly she dragged off the shrunken cardigan and the too-short dress, even though the hem had been let-down to the limit, dropping them and her underclothing on the end of the bed. From under her pillow, she drew a screwed-up nightdress."

- The Min-Min (1966) pages 13-14.

See also The Min-Min

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Cover illustration: Sylvie walking towards the school room.

Illustration from The Min-Min (1966)
Sylvie approaches the school.
"It was a large weatherboard room, built like a hall with a gabled roof, standing in a pebbled yard. The tank attached had not had any water in it for the last nine months, but once, a long time ago, when they had first come to the siding, she had seen it overflow. Up the hill a little, solitary, was the boys' convenience. The door gaped. There were guy ropes from each corner attached to red gum posts ten feet away. The ropes kept the building anchored to the ground when those winds blew." (page 16)

Photo: flat land with horizon in the distance; red-coloured sky.

Desert sunset, 1963