Book Review: A Fortunate Life

The chances are if you are from Australia you've heard of "A Fortunate Life" even if you haven't read it. Beyond the Australian shores it hasn't had the attention it deserves. That's most probably because the book was not written by a 'great' or famous man. This is the story of Albert Facey, an itinerate worker, who was illterate before the age of nineteen. It's also a slice of Western Australian history, as seen through the eyes of a common man.

Albert Facey wrote this autobiography at the end of his life, at the urging of his children and grandchildren. They had listened to his stories of life at the turn of the 20th Century for years and asked him to write them down. So Albert sat at the kitchen table and poured his life story into a series of notebooks, which was eventually sent off to the local historical society for editing before being bound into enough books for his family. The members of the historical society who read it realised that they what they had in their hands was something very special, and they cleaned up the grammar and sent it to a publisher. The book was published the year before Facey died.

When I first read this book, especially the formative years of Albert Facey's life, I thought that the title was ironic. To me, it appeared that Facey had just the opposite to a fortunate life. He was abandoned by his mother at the age of two after his father had died in the Goldfields of Western Australia. He was raised by his grandmother, and eventually they moved from Victoria to Western Australia to be with his mother. She had remarried and disowned her younger children.

Facey was not educated because of lack of money, and went to work at the age of ten. In a dramatic twist, the people he was sent to work for were cattle rustlers! He escaped from them and returned to his grandmother on foot. This was where we first see Facey's determination to go on no matter what.

One of the most chilling parts of the book is his descriptions of the landings at Gallipoli on 25th April, 1915. What gives it even greater impact, at least for me, is his earlier description of the night in Lemnos Harbour, while they were awaiting their orders. The juxtaposition of the beauty of that night followed by the destruction and terror of the next was powerful.

Facey lived through the war, got married, and then lived through the depression. Somehow he always survived. He knew when to walk away, I think. A skill not many people have.

The book itself is written in very simple language, and has the style of someone telling you a story. His voice comes out very strongly through his words on the page, and it's easy to see him telling the tale to his children and grandchildren. It's an easy read, and an unpretentious one. Although you may not agree with his point of view of many subjects, he states his reason for them plainly and simply.

I highly recommend this book if you like autobiographies. Facey knew how to tell a tale, and the story of his life - that of a common man - is compelling. It still amazes me that he didn't learn how to read and write until he came back from World War 1. Stories of ordinary life have their place and by the end of the book, I think you'll agree with Facey that he did, indeed, have a fortunate life.

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Comments 51 comments

Hovalis profile image

Hovalis 5 years ago from Australia Author

Olive, it sounds like you've read the book already. I'll leave it for you the flick through the book and find out for yourself (and, yes, I could answer the question for you, but I choose not to because I'm guessing this book is on your school curriculum for this year)

olive 5 years ago

how old was he when he got whipped

Anonymous 5 years ago

You can get it off ebay it cost me $14.

Hovalis profile image

Hovalis 5 years ago from Australia Author

Hi Ken, I don't think it has been released as yet. I've not seen it around, anyway.

McCauley Ken 5 years ago

Is there anywhere a peson can get the mini series VCR CD DVD?

Anonymous 5 years ago

what a good book, i would have given anythin 4 it, it brings u bak 2 the 1900s

Toby 5 years ago

I first read this book many years ago and is one of my all time favourites. I will be reading it again soon - and I don't normally read books twice. I recommend it to anyone and everyone, even if you aren't interested in the subject matter, it is so well written it's hard to put down. I always recommend this book to friends wanting a good read.

And a special thanks to Hovalis for writing this review and hopefully getting a few others to read it. Cheers all and happy reading...

Mat C 5 years ago

One of the greatest books I have ever read! A triumph for the Australian culture an identity.

sfrentz06 profile image

sfrentz06 5 years ago from Sterling Heights, MI, USA

This sounds like a great book! I'd really like to read it.

Hamish 6 years ago

This is one of my favorite books, i have chosen to do this for my year 11 auto bio reviee. I think we all have something to learn form this book, like how lucky we are that we live in a great country like australia

Hovalis profile image

Hovalis 6 years ago from Australia Author

I didn't read this book until I was in my 30's. It wasn't on the curriculum at High School, like it is now. He gives such a vivid description of the early 1900s in Western Australia. Some of which I can relate to, as there is one property that has been in my mother's family since that time in NSW, and they settled it under the same conditions as Facey's aunt and uncle. I had no idea what they must've went through until I read this. He was a remarkable man for simply being a survivor and remaining true to himself.

peter 6 years ago

I have just finished listening to the audio version of the book on my radio station as they played it over 45 days. It is a great story and i am going to read the book now as I learned so much about our past by it , and I am 45yo!

Ra Dog 6 years ago

Such a good book loved it favourite ever

Hovalis profile image

Hovalis 6 years ago from Australia Author

One thing I loved about reading Albert Facey's life story was his ability to move on regardless of the circumstances. When most people would fold up and lose hope, he just moved on and made his own opportunities. It certainly is a gift, and if in writing his book he's helped others, then it was more than well-written. Thanks for reading!

E.T.from Hungary 6 years ago

For Hovaris and for "Great Grandchild"....

How on Earth I found out about this book?!, would wonder!?!...Not much space here..To make it short:

...Moonlight is my favourite story/Show on TV of a very unusual couple living in L.A....Bess and Mic. are my favourite caracters at this moment,...Alex O'Laughlin,who plays the charming caracter of Mic Saint John, is a young actor who was born in Australia....His short life story can be read on the Net....A very charming,humorous writing...(showing His very own sense of humor),...He had trouble in school,not fitting in,left school early,....working warious jobs,..and than returning to acting school at 22......He says,A.B.Facey's wunderful book had such a lifechanging influence on him,.(gave back his believing in himself) made an enormous impact on him,...So,he finished the acting school,and eventually he is on the right track now....You can be proud of him,he is a wunderful man...My twins ,Peter and Nora,age 14....are special children,creativ,sensitive but struggling in school...somehow "Not Fitting In".(I am a misfit myself.)..I believe,God loves them, and I believe in them,....I believe Alex,when he says the book gave him hope,....And I can hardly wait to read it ,together with my kids...(It is available on

...Hope to hear from you ....Best regards:Edit

PS:My kids were born in the States,...we are American citizens, in Hungary for a while..

Hovalis profile image

Hovalis 6 years ago from Australia Author

Thanks for commenting! Your great grandfather certainly left a great legacy for you.

great grand child 6 years ago

Hi this is an amazing story, weather u would like to believe it or not i am the great grand child of albery facey. as for those that think it's a fraud your wrong. it is 100% true. A beautiful well told life story.

KKalmes profile image

KKalmes 6 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

I'll search for it maybe can order... please take time to visit my hub and leave a comment so I know you were there.

Hovalis profile image

Hovalis 6 years ago from Australia Author

It is a good book! You will see a lot of comments from disgruntled students here as this book has made it onto the curriculum, and taste varies and changes over time. What you didn't like as a student often seems more palatable as you get older. It might be harder to find in the US, though. It has been a few years since it was first published.

KKalmes profile image

KKalmes 6 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

Hovalis, thank you for the introduction to a book that sounds a must read this summer.

Hovalis profile image

Hovalis 6 years ago from Australia Author

And yet you continued to read. Why did you waste precious time doing that? I've always wondered why people do that. It'd make a great psychological study, don't you think?

kylie n greg 6 years ago

A Fortunate Life? More like An Incredibly Boring Life. AB Facey wastes reams of paper describing mundane adventures like a train trip to Perth and a buggy ride to the shops. With every new job he gets I roll my eyes at the amount of unecessary description he will unleash on the poor unsuspecting reader sucked in by the fact that this is an 'Australian classic'. Total snooze fest.

Hovalis profile image

Hovalis 6 years ago from Australia Author

Go ahead, Mr Sceptic. Put your money where your mouth is and prove it. The challenge is: no second-hand sources allowed. No relying on gossip or innuendo.

Have a nice day!

Proud Skeptic 6 years ago

Re the fraud - Who thinks this story is the real story though? I am told the second edition had to remove references to a boxing stadium because it turns out it did not exist when he claimed. If he did fulfil this manly depiction he writes, then he was not underage for Gallipoli as he claimed. At school it read like several people's stories (or dreams) combined into one, as all "faction" characters are written.

CORR0S1VE 6 years ago

Heh.. very slow start, but a good enough representation of Aussies

hello:) 6 years ago

i hated this book so much

Hovalis profile image

Hovalis 6 years ago from Australia Author

Wait for it Mely, I hear rumours that it may come up in your school reading list (although I'm not sure what year studies it). :-)

mely23 6 years ago

even though i have not read it i can see it is going to be interesting!!!! (I am only 11yrs old)

Hovalis profile image

Hovalis 6 years ago from Australia Author

Facey is an interesting read, indeed. I really love that you can hear his voice so well. I think maybe that's part of what makes it so interesting.

Thanks for reading!

person 6 years ago

Chose to read this book for an English assignment. Thought it would be boring. I was wrong.

Hovalis profile image

Hovalis 7 years ago from Australia Author

...and yet I enjoyed it. It could be a whole taste thing at work here. :)

Thanks for your contribution!

Taylor Dunkley 7 years ago

mmm yer it was not the best

Hovalis profile image

Hovalis 7 years ago from Australia Author

If you can get hold of a copy it's well worth the read. :-)

LRobbins profile image

LRobbins 7 years ago from Germany

I hadn't heard of this book before but it sounds interesting, I'll have to check it out. Good review, thanks!

mit17  7 years ago

the book was ok but i'm not much of a reader i just had to read it for school

Hovalis profile image

Hovalis 7 years ago from Australia Author

I think it's a good read, regardless. :-)

zonong 7 years ago

quite a good book for a school project...

zonong 7 years ago

im reading this book now

Hovalis profile image

Hovalis 7 years ago from Australia Author

It's the first I've heard about it. I'm sure, if that were true, then there would be more evidence of that around. As it is I've only ever heard the contrary.

??? 7 years ago

I heard the book was proven to be a fraud? Anyone know anything about that?

Hovalis profile image

Hovalis 7 years ago from Australia Author

It's a great read, and I wonder, somehow, after reading it if we have it too easy. The things he saw as important were not the things we see today as important. He only really held on tightly to his family, and used his wits for the rest. How he met his wife was just amazing. You picked a great book for your school project, and it's one that you can read more than once and get more from. :-)

Project 4 7 years ago

This book was a great read. It encompassed all things about a terrible life, yet he still managed to believe it was a fortunate one. I'm doing a school project on it now, and I'm definitely pleased with my choice. 5/5.

Hovalis profile image

Hovalis 7 years ago from Australia Author

Hi Taz, You certainly were lucky in your choice. Albert Facey seemed to ba able to accept and move on. He never really did hold onto much of the tragedy, except for his mother's actions, which I can understand. There are not many people today who can just walk away when that really is the best thing to do. It took me a while to realise that the reason he believed his life was fortunate was because he dwelled on the things that mattered most to him, and that he could change. I wonder if, considering how things are going right now, that is a lesson we all (myself included) need to learn

Taz 7 years ago

This is one of the best books ever. I'm doing an assignment on an auto bio and I chose this book!!! It is amazing about the hardship he went through and the life he had and he still called it fortunate

Hovalis profile image

Hovalis 7 years ago from Australia Author

It certainly is a good book. One of my all time favourite autobiographies, in fact. Thanks for reading!

jack 7 years ago

good books

Hovalis profile image

Hovalis 8 years ago from Australia Author

Considering Albert Facey only died about 30 years ago it almost feels like he lived in a different world. The strange part is that the land grant his aunt and uncle got is very similar to the one that my great-great grandparents got here in NSW. And believe it or not that property is still in the family. When I read that book I thought the title was ironic, but he truly believed he had a fortunate life. It really is all about attitude...

Anonymous 8 years ago

It is a great story about Albert Facey's life and describes what it was like to have to work for your family at a young age. It tells of how he tried job after job and going through some difficulties on the way.

seb 8 years ago

This book is a fantastic read i reall enjoyed it!

Hovalis profile image

Hovalis 9 years ago from Australia Author

I enjoyed the read. :-)

Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

I liked the book, in some places its a bit slow going but all in all a good read

regards Zsuzsy

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