Gertrude, a not so ordinary life

Barbara Kelly at the launch of her novel, Gertrude.

By Peter Mason

Although written as a work of fiction, Barbara Kelly’s novel, Gertrude, is in reality a family memoir based on the life of the title character, the author’s grandmother. Spanning the period from World War 1, through the Great Depression, and on to the build-up to the second world war, the novel covers a period of great change in Australia, especially as it affected women and their role in a changing society.

The Noosa author, now 80, met Gertrude only briefly and knew her only vaguely, but her years of research into the family’s history led her to describe her grandmother as “an extraordinary woman conscripted by the mores of society at the time to live a very ordinary life.” And yet her life was far from ordinary.

“She was,’ explained Barbara at Tuesday’s book launch in Noosa, “a gutsy and dignified woman who coped with love, loss and hard work, using humour to build resilience.”

Barbara, who is a member of the Noosa Writers’ Group, initially intended to research her grandmother’s life as a legacy to her own children and grandchildren. But out of that research has sprung a beautifully observed and finely crafted novel, crammed full of anecdote and historical fact about life in Queensland in the early 1900s. It is a ‘must-read’ for anyone who has an interest in Australian history and the role of woman in a changing society.

Copies of the book can be obtained through the Noosa Writers’ website,