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Bohemian Negligence is a poignant reflection on a childhood filled with marvellous adventures, deep terrors, an array of personalities, and encounters with the worst and the best of the adult world.

In her epilogue, author Bertie Blackman says: “In reliving my childhood memories, I have discovered a world of magic and wonder – but I have had to enter a place of darkness, too.”

Blackman takes the reader into those places of wonder and darkness with her, writing in a style that conveys with a sense of immediacy a child’s innocence, fear, joy and discovery.

She describes without censure the flawed adults in her world, in particular her alcoholic father, iconic artist Charles Blackman, and his various partners. And she writes with painful clarity of the times her mother unwittingly left her alone with a paedophile.

There are more dark experiences, all the darker from a child’s perspective, including a violent robbery and her father’s near death.

And there’s a strong sense of the child on the brink of adolescence: dying her hair, smoking, drinking, and encountering manipulative older boys.

But there’s much of ‘magic and wonder’ too in this account of a childhood.

Blackman recounts her friendships with a range of other children, from the highly eccentric to the skilled marijuana grower. And the delight of unleashing her own talents as she makes art with her father and begins her journey as a musician.

She takes us with her on her joyous discovery of magical places and events, describing with a painter’s eye places like Fiji, the Sunshine Coast, and Bundeena, and events such as the Sydney Mardi Gras, an Indigenous festival, and a rodeo (where she rides a goat).

Were the adults in the young Blackman’s life guilty of negligence and harm? Or was their approach sometimes more benign, allowing the writer, musician and artist in the child to flourish? In this captivating book, judgement is left to the reader.