the australian jane eyre?: reading my brilliant career

In a crazy, topsy-turvy (but actually quite normal) turn of events, the blog has been mixed up this week and you have me, The Cat, this Tuesday and Curiosity will be Friday.

I’m sorry for missing my last Friday post. Between my sister’s twelfth birthday, the final weeks of uni assessments and coming down with a rather nasty bout of headaches and hot flushes, it was all a bit too crazy. But with all of that mostly out of the way, and my body slowly fighting this man flu (yes,girls can get it too), I have managed to get through a book, take a photo and carry on.

This week’s book was the final book of my Australian Literature and History class, Miles Franklin’s My Brilliant Career. I went into this book assuming it would be a fantastic story about Franklin’s writing career, however was presented with something somewhat different.

The book had striking similarities to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, however seemed to be missing the exciting climactic moments that keep readers reading. The book boasted a protagonist, Sybylla, who consistently assessed her physical appearances only to come to the same conclusion of ugliness and plain-ness. On multiple unnecessary occasions did she return to analysing her beauty (or lack thereof) to pine over her lack of attraction and subsequent difficulties in life.

The book also included multiple settings, Sybylla being shipped from once house to another. In these settings is the book’s true value. Franklin has a beautiful grasp on language in describing the Australian outback, dairy farms and country estates. Each setting and all the scenery are developed magnificently and the reader is brought into the wattle-filled, fly-swatting, hot-air-on-the-back-of-your-neck environment.

The final thing similarity the book shared with Bronte was the contradictory nature of the romantic notions of the text. At the very beginning, Sybylla asserts the story is not to be a romance. However the majority of the plot hat follows is wrapped around her romantic relationships. This worked in Jane Eyre for the genre of the book, the characters that were created and the ideologies it espoused. But Franklin just didn’t pull it together for me. It felt irritating and contradictory and made it difficult for me to like Sybylla or want to keep reading about her life.

What sets Bronte’s book apart from Franklin’s is that between each of these aspects, Bronte managed to develop character, create tension and move the plot along, whereas Franklin’s just didn’t do it. The characters became stale, the narrator became irritatingly contradictory and unreliable (for what seems like no real narrative purpose) and the plot slowed to a near stop.

Overall, despite it’s fantastic Australian imagery and descriptions of setting, and its accolades as a fore-running Australian text, the book felt unfinished and unpolished. It missed the real punchy moments and dragged on the slow ones and unfortunately, if it wasn’t a set text for uni, I probably wouldn’t have got to the end.

From your swaddled, Nurofen-dosed, “gotta keep your hydration up”-ed Internet friend, 

The Cat

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