My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin, paperback, 1901, 280p
I was expecting and preparing to hate this one. There are few books that are on the assigned reading lists at uni that I love, but this semester I am doing a topic all about adaptions – which features a couple of books I really wanted to read, one of my favourites and a couple I was dreading. My Brilliant Career was definitely one of the last category. As you can see by my rating, however, it was a surprise! The only problem was I had already prepared all the scathing remarks to be made in tutorials, throwing around words like pseudo-feminism, and roasting the obviously romantic storyline.
Now I have had to eat my words (and my akubra) because I really liked this novel. Miles Franklin was a master of setting a scene (and she was only 16 when she wrote it). My Brilliant Career invokes the feels of the bush – the real bush – better than any other work I have read. I also identified with Syb’s love of reading, and she made me realise I have a major gap in my reading – I have read only one or two bush poems in my life.
Sybella is a strange character and certainly there were moments that I hated her naiveté and ignorance, so much so I wanted to hit her over the head with a bonnet, but most of the time I found her captivating, interesting and inspiring.
My favourite part of the book – and the reason why it differs from so many other works like it – is the ending, which without spoiling it, is quite unexpected and brilliant. You have been forewarned, this is not a book for the traditional romance reader. I would, however, recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre or any reader who wishes to experience some of Australia’s great literary history. Miles Franklin definitely has a place on the list of Australian greats.