Friday, December 20, 2013

Australian Women Writers Challenge - My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin

The end of the year is coming up verrrrry quickly and I wasn't sure I'd get this thing done on time! But low and behold, I picked this book up just before I went on holiday and i couldn't put it down. Which is the opposite of what I expected.

Stella 'Miles' Franklin's names have been used in this challenge as the names for how many books you're reading, so obvi she's a well important lady. On top of that, there's a literary award named after her called the Miles Franklin award, which you can win if your book is exemplary of Australian-ity and also is very good.

On top of that, she wrote this book when she was 16, and everyone considers it one of the greatest literatures in Australia! Sick!

On to the book itself (because if you want to know more about Miles you can just google her for all the goss bout her life.) It's a work of 'fiction' in that she's pretty much written her own bio but used other names. She writes about her life in the Australian outback, dairy farming (which she hates) and staying at her Grannie's house (which she loves.) All the usual teenage feelings like WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH MY LIFE? And WHY AM I SO UGLY?  And then flirting with guys but hating them at the same time. It amazed me reading this book how similar it was being a teenage girl in the late 1800s to now. It's so ridiculously honest, to the point of being embarrassing for her many, many times. And yet she continues on with that teenage passion, like she hates what she's doing but can't do anything else.

The strong feminist element to this book makes it really relatable, in the same way Jane Austen's characters are never insipid or completely accepting of men having complete control of the world (like the history books would suggest women were back then, submissive and content.) She's constantly ranting about how unfair it is that men are allowed to be ugly, or assertive, or have interesting careers and lives while women were expected to be obsessed with marriage and family and nothing else. While times have changed a bit in terms of women's prospects in Australia, the sentiment is still very relatable.

There were few criticisms I had of this book, and they weren't to do with the writing or storyline (although I won't spoil it but you'll find yourself simultaneously in love with and completely frustrated by her feelings towards a certain Harry Beecham) but more I guess with the time and her unknown privilege. There were a few very racist moments, as is usual with books from this period (and now, but in other ways.) There were moments when she also came across as progressive for her time, and the racist moments were mostly observations of what others said to her rather than what she thought herself. But I think it needs mentioning nonetheless.

All in all this book was a surprise gem for me. I actually watched the movie when I was in Houston a month ago with my mum, and I enjoyed it a lot, which led me to reading the book. There's always some weird stigma for me that historical fiction is going to be really boring, and yet the best ones always just remind you of modern life with different clothes and jobs. This was one of the best representations of how it really is to be a teenage girl and have all your emotions all the time that I've read. I'm so happy that it has the respect of the literary world that it does. I can't imagine that happening nowadays, but I'm glad that it did.

Now apparently I'm an idiot because I just looked at the website and realised I'd signed up to read 4 books this year, not 3 as I thought it was this whole time. Dang it! If I magically find a book I can read in the next week I will, but somehow I doubt that'll happen. Anyway, let's just pretend 3 was always my goal. I've had an enlightened year reading stuff by Australian Women, and I'm pretty sure I'm gonna do it again next year. 10/10 would highly recommend.


  1. Have yet to read this book but judging by your review, the level of feminism is healthy and not degrading. Adding this to my wishlist.

    -Layce, an essay writer

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