The Drover’s Wives – Ryan O’Neill

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*I received a free copy of this book, with thanks to the author and Eye and Lightning Books. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*


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Blurb:  Henry Lawson’s short story The Drover’s Wife is an Australian classic that has sparked interpretations on the page, on canvas and on the stage. But it has never been so thoroughly, or hilariously, reimagined as by Ryan O’Neill, remixing and revising Lawson’s masterpiece in 101 different ways. The variations include a a pop song, a sporting commentary, a 1980s computer game, an insurance claim, a Hollywood movie adaptation, a cryptic crossword and even the selection of paint swatches you can see on this back cover. Inventive and unexpected, this is laugh-out-loud literature from the author of the award-winning Their Brilliant Careers. Inventive and unexpected, this is laugh-out-loud literature from one of Australia’s finest satirists.



This is an incredibly clever book – telling the same story in 101 very different ways, from poetry to prose, puzzles to memes.

The book starts by presenting the Henry Lawson short story ‘The Drover’s Wife’.  Ryan O’Neill then explores the story, turning it inside out and upside down, twisting it and shaping it into entirely new perspectives.

On the surface this is an incredibly witty and entertaining satire – exceedingly well executed and very creative.  Dig a little deeper and you realise that, in simply reading this book casually, you gain such an intimate insight into the original story that you could write your own essay on it quite easily.  I imagine Ryan O’Neill can recite the thing verbatim in his sleep!

Some of my personal favourite re-tellings were ‘A Self-Published Novel Cover’, ‘A 1980’s Computer Game’, ‘Backwards’, ‘A Reality TV Show’ and ‘An RSPCA Report’, so as you can see, there really is something here for everyone.  Definitely worth a look if you want a read that is both entertaining and (kind of) educational!



A snake approaches.
The women and children run
And hide in the house.
Through the long night she watches –
Shedding memories like scales
And the snake burns with the dawn.

– Ryan O’Neill, ‘Tanka’ in The Drover’s Wives


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Find more from Ryan O’Neill at the Kanganoulipo website or on Twitter and Goodreads.

The Drover’s Wives is available on Amazon right now!







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