A Fortunate Life

A Fortunate Life is an autobiography by Albert Facey published in 1981, nine months before his death. It chronicles his early life in Western Australia, his experiences as a private during the Gallipoli campaign of World War I and his return to civilian life after the war. It also documents his extraordinary life of hardship, loss, friendship and love.

A Fortunate Life
AuthorA.B. Facey
Cover artistRobert Juniper
GenreAutobiographical, Drama
Published1981 (Puffin, Hardcover Viking, Penguin Books Australia, Ltd.)
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)

During the initial days of its publication, Albert Facey became a nationwide celebrity. Despite his renowned life, Facey considered his life to be simple and "had no idea what all the fuss was about". When asked on an interview, where the name of the book originated. He replied, "I called it 'A Fortunate Life' because I truly believe that is what I had".

After its great reception it has become a classic piece of Australian literature and is one of Australia’s most beloved books. Since its publication in 1981 it has sold over 800,000 copies[1] and become a primary account of the Australian experience during World War I. It is also featured in many Australian primary and secondary schools as a reading book for young adults.


Plot summary

The autobiography begins at his birth. Albert Barnett Facey was born in Maidstone, Victoria, Australia, in 1894. His father died on the Goldfields of Western Australia in 1896 of typhoid fever and Albert's mother left her children to the care of their grandmother shortly afterwards. In 1899 he moved from Victoria to Western Australia in the care of his grandmother, Mrs. Jane Carr (born 1832 - died 1932), and three of his six older siblings: Roy, Eric and Myra. Most of his childhood was spent in the Wickepin area.

He started working on farms at the age of eight and had little education and therefore could not read or write. As a child he taught himself to read and write. By the age of 14 he was an experienced bushman, and at 18 a professional boxer. Badly injured at Gallipoli, he suffered severe problems which were later the cause of his death. In August 1915 during the First World War, in which two of his brothers, Joseph and Roy, were killed. While recuperating he met his future wife Evelyn Mary Gibson and they were married in Bunbury in August 1916. The Faceys lived in East Perth before returning to Wickepin six years later with their children, where they lived until 1934. His wife died in 1976. The couple had seven children — the eldest, Barney, was killed during the Second World War — and twenty-eight grandchildren.

Origins and publishing history

Facey had been making notes on his life since an early age, and had been entertaining family and friends for decades with his stories which, over the years, became more and more polished (at times at the cost of historical accuracy[2]). At the urging of his wife, he eventually wrote them up into a full manuscript, by hand, in a series of exercise books, working at the kitchen table. He then had the manuscript typed up and sent it to Fremantle Arts Centre Press, requesting that twenty copies be printed and bound for family members and friends. Facey's story was so remarkable, however, that it was immediately accepted for commercial publication. It appeared just nine months before his death on 11 February 1982, in his 88th year.


Awards and honours

Albert Facey and A Fortunate Life have been the recipients to a host of award nominations since the initial publication of the book but have only won two major book awards. It was first awarded the 1981 Banjo Award for Australian Literature and then the New South Wales Literacy Award The book was also named as Australia's number 10 on the ABC's My Favourite Book list.[3]

Commercial success

Other media

Mini series

A Fortunate Life
Based onbook by Albert Facey
Written byKen Kelso
Directed byHenri Safran
Marcus Cole
StarringDominic Sweeney
Nikki Coghill
Country of originAustralia
Original language(s)English
No. of episodes4 x 2 hours
Producer(s)Bill Hughes
Ian Bradley
Budget$6.3 million[4]
Original networkNine Network
Original release9–12 March 1986

A Fortunate Life was a mini series based on the novel, which screened in 1986 on the Nine Network. It was narrated by Bill Kerr and featured many well known Australian actors. It starred a cast of young actors who started their careers in this series: Scott Bartle (plays Bert aged 5), Antony Richards (Bert aged 9), Benedict Sweeney (Bert aged 14) and Donovan Curyer Oshlack (plays Roy aged 14–16). It was filmed in Mount Tom Price, Coolgardie, Kalgoorlie, Bunbury, Mullewa, Fremantle and Victoria Park.[4]

The mini-series was released on DVD by Umbrella Entertainment in March 2008 and is compatible with all region codes.[5]

Preceded by
New South Wales Literacy Award
Succeeded by
Bliss by Peter Carey


  1. Penguins Books Australia retrieved 19 April 2015
  2. Hirst, J. B. (2007). "Facey, Albert Barnett (Bert) (1894–1982)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Melbourne University Press.
  3. "My Favourite Book — The Top Ten". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2004. Archived from the original on 8 February 2014. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  4. Ed. Scott Murray, Australia on the Small Screen 1970-1995, Oxford Uni Press, 1996 p196
  5. "Umbrella Entertainment". Archived from the original on 22 August 2013. Retrieved 19 July 2013.

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