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November 2, 2019


#AusReadingMonth 2019 A Kindness Cup

by N@ncy



  1. This book is based on historical fact:
  2. a massacre of a group of Aboriginal people
  3. near Ball Bay Queensland in 19th C (The Leap)
  4. and the police whitewash of the event.


  1. In A Kindness Cup Astely is examning the politics of race
  2. The central character is a bitter teacher, Mr Dorhay,
  3. who returns to the town of The Taws 20 years.
  4. He tried to bring classical education to the unwilling outback students.
  5. Dorahy embodies the rage and frustration
  6. ….Thea Astley was also feeling.
  7. Theme: justice.…or is it revenge?
  8. Chapter 8 pg 74
  9. Boyd: “Why did you come back?”
  10. Dorahy: “Curiosity. That mainly. And a hope of delayed justice.”
  11. Theme: obsession….and the places it takes one (pg 102)
  12. Dorahy vows to see justice served.
  13. Theme: white guilt (suppress stories about events that disturb them)
  14. ch 6 That’s all over now. So long ago no one remembers
    ch 8 Past is past, eh?
    ch 8 I thought you’d (Dorahy) be letting go by now.
    ch 14 “ and let live.”



  1. A Kindness Cup…this was NOT the original title.
  2. Astley had chosen “Come Home People.
  3. I still can’t figure out the REAL meaning of ‘A Kindness Cup’!
  4. I only found two references to the word kind.

Chapter 5  — pg 44

  1. Boyd confronts vigilante group explaining why
  2. the blackfella did their best to help a lost baby….left her
  3. at the home of The Jenners.
  4. “They were being kind to the child in their own way.
  5. Kind.
  6. Are you going to take them to task for that?

Chapter 8 —  pg 72

  1. While Dorahy attends a cocktail party at Sweetman’s home:
  2. “…he sips again and the wine warms him.
  3. There’ll be some kindness, he hopes.



  1. Astley calls the blackfella hunters “10 men of God” (ch 9)
  2. A man of God was a title of respect in the Bible
  3. This vigilante group is anything but respectful
  4. …they are bloodthirsty racsists.


Characterization….with a ‘Catholic’ twist:

  1. Sweetman: “…smiles like a Messiah (pg 176)
  2. Dorahy: “he is persistant …like an avenging angel”  (pg 162)
  3. Lunt:  “It is difficult not to make Lunt look like a sacrificial lamb.” (pg 141)


Strong point – personification summer crouches

  1. The house skulks (lie in hiding)
  2. Heat dealing blow upon blow
  3. Sunlight eating through sinew and bone towards the soul…
  4. Bracken dragged at their boots an argued with them
  5. The sun clouts the side of his head (Dorahy) for the lie
  6. plague of sunlight that threatens to beat him senseless
  7. Mid-morning knocks on his sunny door….
  8. He feels the bite of northern light…
  9. The heat does not lick but rasp.


Strong point: Novel is interactive!

  1. Thea Astley is known to fill novels with Latin
  2. quotes and Mr Dorhay contines the tradition.
  3. Latin phrases are little riddles.
  4. It is fun to pauze and look up the translation
  5. …trying to link it to the narrative.
  6. Noli tageres – touch not (pg 27)
  7. Vivamus atque amenus – let us live, let us love (pg 59)
  8. Domine non sum dignus – Lord, I am not worthy. (pg 76)
  9. Eheu, fugaces Labuntur anni... – Alas, the fleeting years slip by (pg 134)


QUOTE with IMPACT  – chapter 1  pg 18

  1. Mr Buckmaster: (You’d be) First to squawk if a
  2. …party of them (blackfellas) raped you.
  3. Wife: “I’ve never squawked at rape.”
  4. There was a frightful silence.


QUOTE with IMPACT  Chapter 6 — pg 60

  1. Sweetman: “Why did you come back?
  2. ”Not in the spirit of criticism .
  3. That’s all over now. So long ago no one remembers.
  4. Dorahy: “I remember”
  5. Sweetman: “You WON’t forget, you mean.
  6. Are growing pains all the things you recall, eh?”
  7. Dorahy: “Is that how you dismiss it (massacre)? Growing pains?


Quickscan structure of the book:

  1. If you read the book
  2. …this may help you because Astely subtly
  3. switches back and forth  past and present.
  4. Sometimes it took me a while
  5. …to figure out where I was on the timeline!


(ch 1) PRESENT + multiple flashbacks to 20 yrs ago (Mr Dorahy’s home)
(ch 2) PRESENT Mr Dorahy …boat trip to ‘Back to The Taws Reunion” +
flashback to court scene investigating the ‘black hunt” led by Buckmaster sr.
— intro character Charlie Lunt
(ch 3) PAST 20 years ago – intro characters:
—Gracie, Jenner, Buckmaster jr, S. Boyd, Sweetman
(ch 4) PAST  (courtroom)
(ch 5) PAST (meeting vigilante group)
(ch 6) PRESENT hotel lobby, Dorahy meets Sweetman after many years
(ch 7) PAST (courtroom) + Dorahy visits Charlie Lunt’s shack
(ch 8) PRESENT Mr D arrives at Sweetman’s house for drinks
(ch 9) PAST —massacre 7 aborigines — first plot twist
(ch 10) PRESENT – Dorahy asks Boyd to take him to Charlie Lunt
(ch 11) PRESENT drinks at Sea Rip Hotel Bar
(ch 12) PRESENT trip to see Charlie Lunt, ask him to the reunion
(ch 13) PRESENT —“How many did you sacrifice?”
—D confronts Sweetman at reunion hall. Audience is shocked — second plot twist
(14) PRESENT reunion hall + next day a tense atmosphere in hotel breakfast room
(15) PRESENT Dorahy visits old school (taught classics, Gallic Wars, Pliny, Livy)
— then goe to the hotel meets Boyd, asks him for a  favour  (..tension)
(ch 16) PRESENT Dorahy visits Boyd in his newspaper office …then to hotel for tea
(ch 17) PAST (courtroom) + PRESENT Boyd is in newspaper office…talk with print setter
(ch 18) PRESENT Boyd finally finishes doing the favour Dorahy asked him for
(ch 19) PRESENT third plot twist no spoilers
(ch 20) PRESENT Boyd and Gracie meet at the hotel
(ch 21) PRESENT last night of the “Back to The Taws Reunion
CLIMAXno spoilers …..the end


Last Thoughts:

  1. Thea Astley is a brilliant writer.
  2. I learn new words, expressions in every book!
  3. This is Astely’s first historical fiction.
  4. A Kindness Cup is the first of 3 novels
  5. highlighting the injustice to the Aborigines.
  6. Personally, I thought A Kindness Cup not as good
  7. as Astley’s social satire novels:
  8. The Slow Natives and
  9. A Boat Load of Home Folk
  10. …both books were much better.
  11. Also there were NO REALLY strong female
  12. characters in A Kindness Cup.
  13. A ‘beyond her prime’, fading opera singer Gracie
  14. just did not match up to characters like
  15. Sister Matthew…
  16. Miss Trumper and Miss Paradise.
  17. Still it was a good read…but not Astley’s best.








8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Nov 2 2019

    My first thought with this title, was about the phrase in Auld Lang Syne, ‘we’ll take a cup of kindness yet’. It also seems to fit the theme of memory, not forgetting etc.


    • Nov 2 2019

      It’s a long time since I read it … my first Astley so I have a special fondness for it – but “a kindness cup” is clearly satiric here!

      For Aussies, I think it’s interesting to note that he was Astley dealing with an indigenous massacre long before the issue became common knowledge. What a pioneer and leader she was in social justice.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Nov 2 2019

        Astley’s insights were as you said pioneering…especially in the comments characters use to hide their white guilt.
        Thanks so much for your comment.


      • Nov 4 2019

        Yes, and from Queensland too!

        Liked by 2 people

    • Nov 5 2019

      Excellent, Brona…I never thought to search for the ‘kindness cup’ outside the book text. I’ll have to remember to look further than the bookcover!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nov 2 2019

    “here was” not “he was”


  3. Nov 5 2019

    Thanks Lisa…for stopiping by.! Thea astley is such a favorite of mine.
    Which Australian writer has a special place in your library?



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  1. Classics and Literary Round-up: November 2019 | Australian Women Writers Challenge Blog

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