Writing & News

Reviews of Imaginative Possession by Belinda Probert


“Wanting to belong forms the root system of Belinda Probert’s Imaginative Possession, marking the terrain – how can she, as an immigrant, ever feel at home in Australia? – and producing shoots of longing for the landscapes of her English childhood. Even now, forty-five years after arriving in Perth to take up a teaching position at Murdoch University, after which she lived briefly in Adelaide before raising a family in Melbourne, that question lingers. Specifically, given that she feels at ease with the people and culture, why does she still feel needled by the natural environment? To explore this, Probert employs the triple treat of academia, bibliophilia, and gardening nous. Perhaps leaving Melbourne will make her feel more congruent with the country, an impulse that sees her, in her early sixties, buying a rural property in the Otways. Or maybe, despite the wealth of knowledge she gains there, it won’t.
— Paul Dalgarno, Australian Book Review, September 2021

“Thirty-five years after migrating to Australia from London, educator and social scientist Belinda Probert is still struggling to feel at home in a country that is so ancient and so unlike the pastoral England of her childhood. Believing that to feel at home in Australia she must first feel at home in its landscapes, Probert purchases a 28-acre piece of land in south-western Victoria and sets out to create her own garden.
Thankfully, the resulting book is much more than a collection of gardening anecdotes. Woven throughout her encounters with the flora and fauna of her garden (from kookaburras and a resident echidna to tiger snakes and leeches) are insights into bushfire measures and farming practices and considerations of the ancientness of the land and its cultures. Yet what proves most valuable in Probert’s quest to ‘imaginatively possess’ her adopted country is a close reading of the works of prominent Australians interested in the same questions of belonging, from George Seddon to Kim Mahood.
Ultimately it is Probert’s own enthusiasm for transcending personal and collective preconceptions about the Australian landscape that allows her to explore alternative ways of belonging, such as social, cultural and political belonging. Acutely observed and deeply reflective, Imaginative Possession is a welcome addition to the necessary conversation happening around identity, ownership and the values that underpin our society.” Jacqui Davies is a freelance writer and reviewer based in South Australia
— Jacqui Davies, June 2021

…Part memoir, part essay, part literary appreciation, Imaginative Possession is a fascinating and thought provoking book that will get you thinking about what the Australian environment means to you…
— North Melbourne Books

‘The result is a book of quiet personal introspection told with humour and self-deprecation. Probert has learned so much and is keen to share this with her readers. Her style is enormously approachable, and her writing is vibrant and compelling. Happily, Upswell Publishing saw a place for this kind of writing, and as readers, we are richer for sharing in the experience.’
—Kara Nicolson, Readings Bookshop reviews
(Full review here)

‘Reading Probert’s book is like sitting down with a wise, warm friend. Probert’s work skips seamlessly from the personal to the critical, drawing on work by people such as Bruce Pascoe and George Seddon, as she tackles her own steep learning curve, and broader issues related to colonialism, belong and conservation.’

Eliza Henry-Jones, ABC Organic magazine