A Fortunate Life by AB Facey

Published: 1981

Summary (taken from blurb):
Bert Facey sees himself as an ordinary man, but his remarkable story reveals a winner against impossible odds. At eight, his ‘childhood’ ended and he went out to work – clearing, ploughing, fencing, droving, sinking dams, boxing with a travelling troupe. He survived Gallipoli to become a farmer, but was forced to leave the land during the Depression.

A Fortunate Life is the amazing true story of the life of Albert Facey, covering his life from his birth in 1894 to around 1976, six years before he died. Bert had little schooling and mostly taught himself to read and write. He began keeping notes about his life and eventually compiled them chronologically into this book at the urging of his family.

The writing is not at all flowery or lyrical – Facey tells the story straight up and betrays little emotion throughout, only occasionally mentioning his loneliness in the bush, his terror during the war, and his deep love for his wife and children. The story is so chock-full of events that, had overly descriptive language been used, the impact of his story would have been lessened.

A Fortunate Life moves along at a cracking pace and is a remarkable story of endurance and humbleness in the face of incredible hardship. The book gives a wonderful view of how life was lived in Australia during this time period. Highly recommended.

Rating: 9/10

Review by Kylie

Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , , | 26 Comments

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26 thoughts on “A Fortunate Life by AB Facey

  1. Ashleigh

    I am sorry, but I whole heartedly disagree. I had to read this book for english, I found it painstakingly slow, over discriptive and monotonous. I suppose it comes down to personal taste, but the bush setting did nothing for me.

    • shannon

      i am sorry but if you did not like the book then you are missing the whole point of the story. it is not a leisure book, it is a recont of the hellish conditions this inspirational character had to endure in his childhood alone. he then survived a world war in which he was badly injured. after that he decided to give farming a go in which his land was taken from him in the great depression, he lost his eldest son in WWII and managed to recount his whole lifes experiences in a small book. i am 13 and also needed to read this book for an english assignment which mind you is due tomorrow and is only half-completed, but i took the time to stand up for this guy. there is a reason he was named australian of the year, this guy is an inspiration to all australians and his life was NOT short. therefore his book was not either.

    • pffb

      i completely agree!!!!!

    • amphi

      I agree, guess it’s just a book that some people find interesting while other’s don’t.

  2. Gretta

    I fully endorse your review. I absolutely loved and devoured this book. I especially recommend it to people who move newly to Western Australia (from overseas like me or the Eastern States I guess too) as it is a wonderful introduction to WA and gives the reader a great introduction to the history and story of WA. Beautiful book.
    Does anyone know if it has been published in languages other than English?

    • Minh

      I agree with your comment. I think this book was published in English only because some words are very hard to translate to other languages.

  3. Kylie

    Thanks for the comments. I can see how some people might not like this book. AB Facey was clearly not a ‘writer’ as such. He dealt more with the facts than with poetical language. Still, I find that in this case, the story itself makes up for any lack of style.

    I’m from NSW (have travelled a bit around WA) and it certainly gave me a desire to see more of the state, and in particular the places mentioned in the book. And it certainly does work very well as a historical account.

  4. scotty

    WOWOWOW.. AWSOME… INSPIRING… This book should be introduced to our school curriculum…, all aussie school kids NEEED to read this,, they need to know bout our humble begginings and what we faced just to survive in those days and conditions and A.B Facey brings it all to your imagination with no bull,straight forward writing.. he doesnt dress anything up he says it how it is which what makes this book come across sooo reall……. wow… im a current serving defence force member,Army and his tales of Gallipoli make me proud to be an Australian Digger.And its rare in these modeern days to see a couple stay married for 59 years like facey and his wife evelyn…. ive just finished reading this book and jumped straight online to find out more about this remarkable man and his story and found this site…… anyways,, i hope all who read it got as much out of it as i did…..

    ADF Army

  5. Emma

    I find this book boring, Im reading it as a part of my studys for Yr 11 and i refuse to go past chapter 6

    • Dean

      Well Emma, I can tell you that I too had to read the book at school and I enjoyed it so much and it left such a lasting impression on me that I have just re read it at the age of 37. Refusing to go past chapter 6 is most definately your loss. It is a very inspiring story. It is quite ironic that you refuse to read the book when Facey himself had to struggle to get his hands on a book or indeed access to the opportunity to learn to read or write. Opprtunities that you quite obviously treat with contempt. Perhaps you could consider reading it when you are mature enough to appreciate it.

      • shannon

        yeah what he said… Facey fought in and survived a world war, what have you done to earn that kind of respect? think of your education, everything you have learnt was with the aid of teachers, he had to learn all of what you have by himself. you think it’s dull while millions around the world think that this man’s an inspiration. as i said before, there’s a reason he was named Australian of the year…

      • Minh

        So what can you learn from him?

  6. gill

    hey emma,
    im in year 11 2 and i totally agree with you, i got past ch6 but i definitaly haven’t finished the book. and i dont think its the best book for analysing critcal literacy.

    • shannon

      come on! yeah, i agree, the book is a bit boring but think of what he had to go through just to survive as long as he had. in those times i don’t think many Australians like him survived the war and then wrote about his life later on… do you think you could survive a world war?

    • Neville Gibbs

      I was very fortunate to meet Albert Facey at the book launch in Fremantle many, many years ago- My wife was a friend of the families (his Grand Daughter) – His Grand son actually played league footy for Swan Districts. My wife Ann met the Faceys several times before this book launch and respected them as they were people of dignity and principles apart from Albert being a very nice person.
      Our copies are signed by him and I have read the book several times- this book is written by a man who taught himself to read and write – he did not winge and moan (like the few negative remarks on this blog) he just got on with life – and this is what I got out of the storey – it is only people like us I suppose that thought he had a tough life – I believe the Faceys really believed that they had a fortunate life.
      This book has been left for us that descibes and captured a life span of a person which some people today would possibly not believe, possibly don’t want to believe.
      I believe he describes times that a very large amount of the population at that time also experienced and people that see negatives in the book should first ask themselves “could they have lived through these times” before criticising they way it is written and the person who wrote it.

  7. Bailey

    hey im in year 5 and love the book at the end when his wife died i nely cried . my mum siad that would

  8. Mark

    I can’t speak higly enough of this book. I read it as a year 11 text in 1986 and I have have re-read it every 2 years or so ever since. Now married with kids we have a saying in our house when one of us complains about a lack of luxury..”oh, what would Bert say about that.”

    I have two copies. One I lend out often and a rare autographed copy from it’s launch not long before he passed away.

    In Victoria at least, it is an optional text for year 11 VCE English.

    As a VCE English teacher I use it as part of the curriculum. Not many do these days but it was part of the curriclum back in the ’80s. I hope one day there is a revival.

    • Mandy

      Hi Mark,

      I have aquired at a market a signed A B Facey “A Fortunate Life”
      and I read that you have one in you possesion, just wondering if you have a rough idea of value.


  9. shopnil

    i didnt get characteristics of Frank?

  10. Chad

    Although I respect Albert Facey and find his story very interesting. The way this book is written made it very hard for me to read. Due to his lack of schooling he tends to put things very plainly and his writing lacks eloquence.

    Personally, this man’s life was truly amazing but I would’ve enjoyed the book had it been written by a “writer” as a biography not an auto.

    But that’s just my opinion.

  11. Teresa M

    I feel very sorry for the people who found A Fortunate Life so ‘boring’ and difficult to read. Why? Because these people are so clearly lacking in imagination and sympathy. It is a great gift to be able to imagine oneself in the shoes of another person, and they clearly lack the ability to do so. Unfortunately there are many people in the world who lack the capacity for imaginative sympathy with others. Albert Facey’s account of his terrible childhood, and the amazing account he gives of what pioneer life was like in Western Australia during the early 20th century, is truly a gift to the world and should be appreciated as such.

  12. Mum

    I read this book over 20 years ago at school. I am from the outback of NSW and have travelled all over this amazing country people like Albert so matter of factly put their lives on the line for. If you speak to elderly people you might find their direct no nonsence conversations enlightening and fascinating. He does not embellish his stories and that adds to the trust you should feel about his stories. The word you should be looking for is integrity not boring. They dont make enough amazing people like him nowdays.

  13. Kita

    I don’t see how, as a student, we are expected to analyse this book as an english text. I would fully understand the point of studying this book for history, but for english? The story is as dry as the paper it’s printed on, it is basically a timeline of (interesting, yes) events in a man’s life, leaving out any sort of depth that usually accopanies successful autobiographies. There is no pacing, there is no feeling, and Facey completely ignores one of the most quoted tips for writing; “show not tell”. I personally found this book boring and monotonous (but that’s no surprise- it was a required text). However i can understand the appeal of the bush setting and harsh story, i just don’t believe it should be used as an english analytical text.

    • Minh

      Exactly, everything has its own avantage and disvantage. But most people just want to see the values of the book when they read it.

  14. A true classic of Australian literature, his simply written autobiography is an inspiration. It is the story of a life lived to the full – the extraordinary journey of an ordinary man.

  15. Ella

    I’m in year 9 this year and my English teacher chose this as our novel study. At first I though ‘not another one’ but after reading it, I found it really fascinating and enjoyable… Maybe English this year isn’t going to be so bad after all.:)))

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