Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My Australia Day

Too fast for me, dagnammit! The RAAF Roulettes doing their aerobatics over the city yesterday

I spent my Australia Day* yesterday doing one of my favourite things in one of my favourite places - reading a book under a tree in the Botanic Gardens (and also the Sunday papers, even though it was Tuesday. I'm a little behind the 8-ball, OK?)

I'm reading the classic Australian novel The Getting of Wisdom by Henry Handel Richardson, which is about the misguided efforts of a country girl from a modest background to fit in and make friends at a posh boarding school in Melbourne early last century. 

I'm enjoying it more than I expected. I'm getting a little buzz out of recognising Melbourne landmarks - "doing the block", for example, refers to the habit of well-to-do types to promenade about Collins Street, particularly the Block Arcade, which I walk through nearly every day on my way to work - and from being able to understand some of the old fashioned slang. For example, back then "mashing" meant flirting. I learnt that from one of the social history displays at the Changing Face of Victoria exhibition at the State Library a (another of my favourite places!) last year.

But I'm also enjoying it because as a country girl who came to the city to go to uni, I know what it's like to leave your family and move to a place where you have no friends and set about trying to fit in. My heart ached a little bit for poor Laura Rambotham at times.

This will be the second classic Australian novel I've read this year. I've also read Monkey Grip by Helen Garner, also set in Melbourne, but this time in the 1970s. I have reviewed my list of 101 Things to Do before I'm 40 to include reading 10 classic Australian books, rather than 10 20th century classic novels.

* Australia Day, for non-Aussies, is the now somewhat controversial commemoration of  the arrival of the First Fleet and white settlement.


Dina said...

Reading a book under a tree....yeah, that would be my kind of day too.

I want to read The Getting of Wisdom. I ran into information about the movie while doing research.

I haven't read Monkey Grip. Did you like it? I want to read it, but I'm a little weary because I didn't much like Cosmo Cosmolino. Have you read that?

I'm reading an Australian novel now. It's called Tirra Lirra By The River. So far I'm enjoying it. Have you read it?

Frisky Librarian said...

Hi Dina. I had a vague idea there was a movie version. I'll have to see if I can find it after I finish the book. Nearly there!

I liked the spare but poetic writing in Monkey Grip (and also the Melbourne locations) but I found the characters frustrating and the ending unsatisfying.

I haven't read Cosmo Cosmolino. It could be on my list of classic Aussie novels? I know Tirra Lirra by the River is. I'll check them out. You've probably read more Aussie classics than I have!