An exhibition of material from the Monash University Library




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75. Whitfeld, J. M. (Jessie M.)

Tom who was Rachel / by J.M. Whitfeld ; illustrated in colour by N. Tenison. (London : Henry Frowde, Hodder and Stoughton, 1911)

Born in 1861 in Sydney, Jessie Mary Whitfield went to Sydney Grammar School. Her sister Ellen was one of the first female students at Sydney University and her brother Hubert became the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Western Australia. Tom Who Was Rachel is about Rachel Thompson, the daughter of the Samford children’s stepmother. While Whitfield’s children may argue with one another, they are presented within an ultimately loving family unit.


76. Bruce, Mary Grant, 1878-1958.

Norah of Billabong / Mary Grant Bruce. (London : Ward Lock, [195-])


Born in Sale, Victoria, in 1878, Mary (Minnie) Grant Bruce began her career as a journalist on the staff of the Melbourne Age and the Leader, where her early Billabong books first appeared. She married her second cousin, Major George Evans Bruce, in Melbourne 1914, after meeting him on a visit to London. After World War I, they divided their time between Ireland and Australia. Between 1910 and 1946, Bruce wrote thirty-seven novels, a collection of Aboriginal Dreaming stories, and a fantasy.


The ‘Billabong’ stories are set on the Linton family’s sheep station located in northern Victoria. Norah is the original ‘little bush maid’. She is an outdoor girl, one of the ‘mates of Billabong’, but retains her femininity through knitting, cooking and charitable enterprises. As the series proceeds, Norah marries Jim’s best mate, Wally Meadows, and has a son, Davie.

77. Methley, Violet M. (Violet Mary)

The queer island / by Violet M. Methley ; illustrated by D.L. Mays. (1934; London : Blackie & Son, [1949])


Violet Mary Methley was a prolific English author who set some of her books in Australia. Or used Australian characters in her adventure and school stories. The Queer Island follows The Bunyip Patrol: the Story of an Australian Girls’ School (1926) in featuring Girl Guides. In The Queer Island, Dorcas, Carol, and Wynne apply their survival skills to existing on an island.


78. Methley, Violet M. (Violet Mary)

Two in the bush / by Violet Methley ; illustrations by Isabel Veevers. (London : Oxford University Press, 1945)

The continuing imperialist approach by some English writers toward Australian material is flagged in this tale where the two heroines have to an Aboriginal child, Woppity, as a pet.


79. Turner, Lilian.

Peggy the pilot / by Lilian Turner. (London ; Melbourne : Ward, Lock, 1922)


Lillian Turner came to Australia with her sister Ethel in 1881 and her works are often compared unfavourably with those of her sister. Editors of The oxford Companion to Australian Children’s Literature argue that “Lilian does not write as consistently well as Ethel, although has some of the same irony, and she is more ambivalent in her acceptance of the social mores of her time”(426).


Lilian wrote for the teen market, beginning with Young Love (1902). While earlier books like April Girls (1911) had female characters who merely giggle and throw tantrums, Turner looks at gender stereotyping in Peggy the Pilot and has Peggy imagines a world where women have the same freedom as men.


80. Cottrell, Dorothy, 1902-1957.

Wilderness Orphan: The Life and Adventures of Chut the Kangaroo / by Dorothy Cottrell. (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1936)


Dorothy Cottrell had little formal education and was confined to a wheelchair after contracting polio when she was six. She was a protégée of Mary Gilmore’s and her first novel The Singing Gold (1928) was serialised in the American Ladies Home Journal in 1927 and in the Sydney Mail the following year (see Items 21 and 22 above). The proceeds of American serialisation enabled she and her husband to travel to the United States where she lived for the rest of her life. After an earlier children’s book Winks, His Book (1934), she wrote Wilderness Orphan:The Life and Adventures of Chut, the Kangaroo (1936). It was first published in Cosmopolitan in 1935 and then made into a film, Orphan of the Wilderness (1936) by Ken Hall.


81. Turner, Ethel, 1870-1958.

Little mother Meg / by Ethel Turner (Mrs. H.R. Curlewis) ; illustrated [by J. Macfarlane and A.J. Johnson] (London : Ward, Lock, 1902)


Little Mother Meg is the final instalment of the trilogy that began with Seven Little Australians (1897), a much-loved novel that focussed on seven children adjusting to a cold and demanding father and a very young stepmother (only a few years older than the eldest child). That novel had ended dramatically with the death of its heroine, Judy, when she saved the life of the youngest, the General. Little Mother Meg takes place three years after Meg’s marriage to Alan Courtney. The novel is mainly concerned with Nell, who falls in love with a ‘bounder’ who has “treated her as a plaything, and she had not had sense enough or dignity enough to see it: instead she had given away unasked—what?” This being teen literature, the worst Nell has done is to hold his hand! Meg’s intervention into Pip’s romance illustrates Ethel Turner’s own difficulties with marriage across the classes. The novel includes a visit to Judy’s grave at ‘Yarrahappini’ where Esther (the stepmother) comes to the rather bizarre conclusion that Judy’s death ‘had been for the best’.


Social realism

Flat Case 7


During the 1930s, writers on the left had begun to promote realism, or more specifically, a subgenre which might be known as socialist realism. This was due partly to a feeling that the economic crisis of the Depression was challenging the dream of equality and that the material needed to be foregrounded over the ideal. Prichard was part of an Australian nationalist literary tradition that has as its origins Henry Lawson and Joseph Furphy. This tradition sought to voice the working community, to be in the idiom “of the man on the job, with his slang and his colloquial rhythms”. As Susan Lever points out, women writers like Katharine Susannah Prichard, Jean Devanny, Eleanor Dark and Miles Franklin were attempting to do three things.78 The first was to represent a specifically Australian experience and the second was to change the current political order wherein working people were at the mercy of economic depression and war, and the third, was to represent the conditions of life for women, with some attempt towards reform through the representation of that experience.82. Stead, Christina, 1902-1983.

82. Stead, Christina, 1902-1983.

Seven poor men of Sydney / by Christina Stead. (New York : Appleton-Century, 1935)

Seven Poor Men was originally titled “Death in the Antipodes” and certainly its characters struggle against a kind of death in life, with Australia — “this waste and sleepin’ land” as it is called — appearing rather like the land of the living dead: a sleeping, unquestioning society. Set against the vivid background of Sydney in the Great Depression, several of the poor men of the title — brooding, marginal figures such as Michael Baguenault, Baruch Mendelssohn, and Kol Blount — are said to suffer from being “too much awake”, too aware of the iniquities, injustices and philistinism around them to rest easily. As Michael laments not long before his suicidal leap from the Gap, “I never sleep anymore. I have such bad dreams”.


As the novel has no identifiable hero and no clear narrative line, it often confounds readers as they follow the nightmares, arguments and monologues that link the seven men and one woman of whom Stead writes. One of the telling images in the novel is that of a fragile web — “threads...woven of the bodies of flying men and women” — something which binds the characters to one another, but is too insubstantial to hold them together. For all their talk, Stead’s characters seldom hear one another; and they remain alienated, alone. Australia, by Stead’s reckoning, is no working man’s paradise.


83. Park, Ruth. 1922-

Poor man's orange / by Ruth Park. (Sydney : Angus & Robertson, 1949)


84. Ercole, Velia [“Margaret Gregory”], 1903 – 1978.

No escape / by Velia Ercole. (London : Thornton Butterworth, 1932)

Margaret Gregory was born in White Cliffs, NSW, into an Italian family. No Escape, her first novel, explores the experience of immigrants settling in a new country through the character Dr Leo Gherardi, an Italian doctor who initially has difficulty adapting to life in rural Australia. The novel won the Bulletin novel competition for 1932. All but Ercole’s first two of her novels were published under the pseudonym “Margaret Gregory”. Ercole eventually settled in England.


85. Campbell, Jean, 1901-1984

Greek key pattern / Jean Campbell. (London : Hutchinson, [1935])

Melbourne born Jean Campbell was a prolific author of popular fiction. Her third novel, Greek Key Pattern, deals with a Greek family in Melbourne. The central character, Yianni, is believed to have been inspired by Antony John Jereos Lucas (1862-1946), a local Greek community leader, philanthropist and restaurateur who was said at one time to be the wealthiest member of the Greek community in Australia.


Campbell is perhaps better known – or recognised — today as the flamboyant subject of a series of portraits by Australian artist Lina Bryans. The best known of these is “The Babe is Wise” which takes its title from Campbell’s 1939 novel of the same name.


86. Tennant, Kylie, 1912-1988.

The battlers / by Kylie Tennant. (1941, Sydney : Sirius Publishing, 1945)


The Battlers, a novel of the Great Depression, won both the S.H. Prior Memorial Prize and the Australian Literature Society’s Gold medal for the young novelist. For three months in 1938 Tennant undertook research for the novel by taking to the roads of southern and western New South Wales in a horse and buggy to learn firsthand of the lives of the men, women, and children dispossessed by the Great Depression.


87. Tennant, Kylie, 1912-1988.

Ride on stranger / by Kylie Tennant. (Sydney : Angus and Robertson, 1943)


Like Time Enough Later, Ride on Stranger is set predominantly in the inner city streets of Sydney, providing a vividly satirical snapshot of the city between the wars. From the moment of her rather inauspicious birth, we watch the protagonist, Shannon Hicks, as she grows from a precocious bookworm into an independent, resourceful and street-smart young adult making her own way in the initially unfamiliar streets of Sydney. As her peripatetic life moves relentlessly forward we are taken along for the ride: she swings, along with the turn of the calendar year, from job to job.

Like these novels, in the end the girl does not get the guy, but neither is she condemned to suffer or die for her sexuality or for maternity, or forced to destroy and escape the domestic space. Instead she finds herself comfortably ensconced in a rural idyll, providing sanctuary to pregnant waifs in the form of the 'plump, giggling' Hennessy girl and even a stray, starving cat. Like Bessie, the protagonist in Time Enough Later, Shannon finds comfort and security in her self, her skills and her rural surroundings, each of which is, ultimately, independent from any form of masculine control. Despite its unconventional closure, this is an enormously satisfying and enjoyable novel, bitingly funny at times, profoundly moving at others. It is one that I'm sure will attract a sizeable and devoted readership.


88. Devanny, Jean, 1894-1962.

Sugar heaven / by Jean Devanny. (Sydney : Modern Publishers, 1936)


Sugar Heaven provides an almost documentary account of a strike on the North Queensland canefields. It tells the story of Dulcie a ‘southerner’ who comes to Innisfail to be with her cane cutter husband, Hefty. Dulcie learns the hard way about work, class and sexual politics in the heart of an industrial dispute over deadly Weil’s disease in the cane.


Crime/Detective


Flat Case 8


89. Grimshaw, Beatrice, 1871-1953.

The missing blondes / by Beatrice Grimshaw. (Sydney : Invincible Press, [1945])


Born in Ireland and educated in France, the University of London, and Queen’s College in Belfast, Beatrice Grimshaw became a journalist in Dublin from the age of 21. She worked for a number of shipping companies in the Canary Islands, the United States of America and England. Her first novel, Broken Away (1897), was a romance about an assertive, independent woman. In 1902, she became publicity manager in the Liverpool head office of the Cunard Line. In 1903 she left for the Pacific region to report for the Daily Graphic, accepting commissions to write tourist publicity material for Pacific islands and New Zealand. In 1907, she left for Papua New Guinea in 1907 (accepting commissions from the London Times and the Sydney Morning Herald) and stayed there for most of the next twenty-seven years. She wrote forty-two books, most written and some set in Papua, including a partly autobiographical title, Isles of Adventure (1930). When the Red Gods Call (1911) is the best known: the book has been frequently reprinted, serialised and translated into several languages. Between 1917 and 1922, Beatrice managed a plantation near Samarai and accompanied exploring parties up the Sepik and Fly rivers in 1923 and 1926. In 1933 she tried tobacco growing near Port Moresby with her brother Ramsay. After visiting Fiji, Samoa and Tonga again, she retired in 1936 to Kelso, near Bathurst, spending the last seventeen years of her life in Australia. Nigel Krauth;’s J.F. Was Here is partly based on her unconventional life. Although she was a best-selling author in the 1920s and sometimes favourably compared with Joseph Conrad, Bret Harte and Robert Louis Stevenson, she is now little known.

90. Neville, Margot.

Murder in Rockwater / by Margot Neville. Australian ed. (London : Bles, 1944 ; Melbourne : G. Jaboor, 1945)


The Goyder sisters Margot and Anne Neville combined to write as ‘Margot Neville’ (according to her nephew, R.H. Morrison, the younger was originally Neville Ann, and known as ‘Nev’; she reversed the names after her divorce from Jerrold Joske). They came from a literary family: Alastair Morrison, “Afferbeck Lauder”, the author of Let Stalk Strine, was one nephew, and Guy Morrison, the distinguished journalist, was another. They had written a series of lightly entertaining and romantic novels but turned to crime with Murder in Rockwater in 1945 (published the previous year in the United States as Lena Hates Men), and produced 22 crime novels, mostly formal murder mysteries which are, with 2 exceptions, solved by a police inspector and sergeant named Grogan and Manning. Most are set in Sydney and its hinterland, including the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury area, but the social setting remained within the elite of professional and moneyed people.


91. Bridges, Hilda, 1881-1971.


House with Black Blinds (South Melbourne: Popular Publications, 1940)

A ‘spooky old house’ thriller, this story was first serialised in the Brisbane Courier between 4 December 1930 and 5 January 1931. Following a tyre blow-out and a sequence of unfortunate events, Jack Mayne and his wife and sister accept the offer of a stranger to stay at a house left to the stranger by an eccentric grandfather and which he is yet to visit. Hilda was the sister of fellow writer, Royal (‘Roy’) Bridges. She wrote a number of novels under male pseudonyms.

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