May online ebook club wrap-up – My Brilliant Career

To celebrate the classics, this month we looked at My brilliant career by Miles Franklin. This Australian classic follows the story of Sybella Melvyn, an independent, headstrong teenage girl living in rural NSW. Her family are relatively poor and Sybella works relentlessly hard every day. She longs for a better life with music and culture and she gets it when she is sent to live with her grandmother in more comfortable surroundings. Here she meets her admirer Harold Beecham and she is forced to decide between a comfortable life of marriage and her independence.

I really enjoyed this book however it wasn’t entirely what I expected. I thought Sybella would be forced to choose between her career and marriage and she was, to an extent. However, it was clear from the start that she wasn’t madly in love with Harold and so I think her struggle was in coming to terms with this as well as finding her identity. It is very much a coming-of-age story and I would recommend it to any teen.

One of the things I most liked about this novel was the liveliness of it’s characters. There seems to be a trend in Australian novels to produce characters that are stoic and a little depressed. On the contrary Sybella and many of the characters were colourful, passionate and humorous. I found them easier to relate to than some of the characters in contemporary Australian novels.

One of the things I disliked about the novel was Sybella’s pre-occupation with her appearance. She insists that no one will love her because she is not attractive. I understand that this is a reflection on life for women at that time however it get very, very repetitive. I would have also liked to have known what happens to Sybella but I guess I’ll have to read the sequel, My career goes bung for that.

Overall, I think this is an excellent depiction of late 19th century rural Australian life, particularly for women and I’m glad I read it.

What did you think of our online ebook read for May?
Is there another great Australian novel that you’d recommend?
Or do you have a favourite classic?