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My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin
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My Brilliant Career (1901)

by Miles Franklin

Other authors: Henry Lawson (Preface)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7852311,730 (3.78)127
  1. 00
    Consequences by E. M. Delafield (souloftherose)
    souloftherose: Although the two books have a very different setting and style, they are both semi-autobiographical novels about a young woman struggling to cope with the restrictions placed on her by the society of the time. As a result, neither are easy or happy reads but both are compelling and very interesting.… (more)
  2. 00
    Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (lucyknows)
    lucyknows: My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin may be paired with Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy or even Lilian's Story by Kate Grenville. All three novels have strong central female characters that all struggle with the expression of freedom.
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» See also 127 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
I had known about this book as an Australian classic for many years, and Miles Franklin is namesake of a literature prize, but have only know got around to reading it. I was not disappointed. It is the story of a teenaged girl growing up in rural Australia, and her changing fortunes. I think the mastery is in the descriptions, and the ability of the book to really conjure up a picture in the reader's mind of the places and situations. The main character is herself very entertaining and real as a person, and wrestles with her own frustration at her own nature (although at such a young age, manages to do a pretty good job of accepting this). Excellent! ( )
  kmstock | Apr 6, 2014 |
Not a book for romantics - nothing is romanticised, not the past, rural life, love or marriage. The protagonist is prickly and contrary and at times you want to slap her, but she sticks to her principles and I really liked her. ( )
  dylkit | Feb 3, 2014 |
It is very many years since I first read this book, and I had remembered it with great affection, I knew I had loved it back then, but to be honest I hadn’t remembered anything of the story. Ausreading month was therefore the perfect excuse to re-read this classic – I now think I’ll have to re-read the sequel in the not too distant future. Earlier in the month I read Ada Cambridge’s The Three Miss Kings – which I really enjoyed. The two novels were written only a decade apart – and the stories take place within about fifteen years or so of each other. While Ada Cambridge’s novel portrays the modern vibrant society of late nineteenth century Melbourne, Miles Franklin’s famous novel has a more rural setting, and a society of an altogether different type.
“Our new house was a ten-roomed wooden structure, built on a barren hillside. Crooked stunted gums and stringybarks, with a thick underscrub of wild cherry, hop, and hybrid wattle, clothed the spurs which ran up from the back of the detached kitchen. Away from the front of the house were flats, bearing evidence of cultivation, but a drop of water was nowhere to be seen. Later, we discovered a few round, deep, weedy waterholes down on the flat, which in rainy weather swelled to a stream which swept all before it. Possum Gully is one of the best watered spots in the district, and in that respect has stood to its guns in the bitterest drought”
Sybylla Melvyn is fifteen as the novel opens – living with her family in the outback of the 1890’s. Sybylla loves the wild outback landscape of Possum Gully – but hates the realities and constraints that the life has placed upon her. She is the eldest child of a disappointed mother and a useless father, longs for books, music and to do great things – to have a brilliant career as a writer. Sybylla is beset with self-doubt – declaring herself ugly; she feels unloved and misunderstood by her family.
Sybylla’s mother comes from a much more genteel family – her grandmother and aunt live on the large rural property of Caddagat. Sybylla is ecstatic when her grandmother whisks her away to live with her and her Aunt Helen at Caddagat – a place of books, music and gentility. Near neighbours and good friends are the Misses Beecham – and their adored nephew Harold Beecham, a rich, handsome and eminently eligible bachelor who has already caught the eye of many a single girl. Sybylla is impetuous, flying quickly into unthinking tempers; she enjoys nothing better than a sparring contest with an arrogant male. Much to her bemusement Sybylla captivates the handsome Harold Beecham.
“Our greatest heart-treasure is a knowledge that there is in creation an individual to whom our existence is necessary - some one who is part of our life as we are part of theirs, some one in whose life we feel assured our death would leave a gap for a day or two.”
As Sybylla and Harold become closer, Harold’s business runs into trouble, and a letter arrives from Sybylla’s mother informing her daughter that she must go as a governess to the M’Swat family at Barney’s Gap in payment of a debt. The M’Swat family is a rough chaotic family living in a slovenly dirty house. To Sybylla leaving Caddagat, her grannie and Aunt Helen is grief enough, but to have to live amongst such people is a horror to her. Typically it is only when leaving Barney’s Gap after a bout of illness that the wild and impetuous Sybylla begins to see some of the worth in these hardworking good natured people. Sybylla returns to her parent’s home, to her younger brother and sisters, and the relentless grind of life at Possum Gully – and her younger prettier sister is sent to Caddagat in her place. When news comes of Harold Beecham’s return to his old home, his fortunes revived again, Sybylla must decide between consenting to a conventional life or to hold fast to her dreams.
It is astonishing to think that Miles Franklin was only sixteen when she wrote this highly autobiographical novel; it is quite an achievement, although it is perfectly possible to see the young girl behind the words. My Brilliant Career is shot through with the romantic impetuosity and wild extravagancies of a young girl - often irreverent, dramatic even self-pitying – Sybylla is like so many girls of her age both now and then, young girls don’t change so very much after all do they? ( )
  Heaven-Ali | Nov 26, 2013 |
This review has been crossposted from my blog Review from Rose's Book Reviews Please head there for more in-depth reviews by me.


Sybylla is going to have a brilliant career... in doing nothing. Out in the Australian Bush, and even in town, it's obvious that Sybylla doesn't belong. This is a prime example of early Australian literature, and it's worth a read if you like that type of thing, or the poetry of the 1890s isn't for you.

For years I didn't know that Miles Franklin was a woman. Upon now reading it, it's obvious that it is! She says it's not romantic, but in a way it is. Sybylla is lovable, in an irritating sort of way. The foreword by Henry Lawson is rather masculine, and I"m not sure it's really in keeping with the book, but it does display the attitudes of men towards women's writing at the time.

Before I started reading, I knew the ending because I had already read some references on the topic (hello essay topic of mateship). So I knew it was doomed from the start! I still persevered though, and in the end I was reading past my bed time because I wanted to see what the stupid Sybylla would do! There is a sequel to this book ('My Career Goes Bung'), which I don't think I'll bother reading (although I am somewhat curious).

Australian fiction doesn't do anything for me. Certainly not Australian fiction from the literary period of the 1890s. I'm sure there are better examples of Australian fiction, and I do enjoy some Australian fantasy, but novels of mateship and the hardships of the Bush don't seem to do anything for me. UnAustralian of me, I know, I know.

I can understand why I am set to study it, because it is a relatively good example of its kind. And it is extremely well known. This is rather reminicent of the writings of Jane Austin, which I also didn't enjoy. However, if you enjoy fiction in the style of Austin, and don't mind a bit of Australian slang, this is a good book to get right into it. The language isn't particularly hard, as long as you understand the Australianisms.

I feel like I've given you a list of reasons not to read it, and very little on the good aspects of the book. For a first novel by an early Australian writer, it's not that bad. The settings are well described, and you can understand the relationships of Sybylla with her family nicely. There is little action, but what there is is quite good. Sybylla seems to get into trouble over everything! And there is certainly no 'Brilliant Career' to speak of.

My copy was from the library, and the version of it had a surprising number of typos. Not unreadable, just that the editors seemed not to take any care. Or perhaps it was left over from the original manuscript - whatever, it was just a shame. That was reflected in the boring cover you see in the above image. The book is obviously riding on its reputation as a classic, not looking to pull readers on the basis of looks or story line alone. ( )
  Rosemarie.Herbert | Feb 26, 2013 |
Amazing characters with a fantastic and unexpected ending. I read this in about 2 days as I just couldn't put it down. So wonderfully engaging and beautifully written. ( )
  Dani12 | Dec 10, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Miles Franklinprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lawson, HenryPrefacesecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Callil, CarmenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
First words
My dear fellow Australians, Just a few lines to tell you that this story is all about myself - for no other purpose do I write it.
Quotations
A woman is but the helpless tool of man - a creature of circumstances.
Weariness! Weariness!
It is worth being poor once or twice in a lifetime just to experience the blessing and heartrestfulness of a little genuine reality in the way of love and friendship.
Grils! Girls! Those of you who have hearts, and therefore a wish for happiness, homes, and husbands by and by, never develop a reputation of being clever. It will put you out of the matrimonial running a effectually as though it had been circulated that you had leprosy.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
From the book cover:
"First published in 1901, this Australian classic recounts the live of 16-year-old Sybylla Melvyn. Trapped on her parents' outback farm, she simultaneously loves bush life and hates the physical burdens it imposes. For Sybylla longs for a more refined, aesthetic lifestyle - to read, to think, to sing - but most of all to do great things. Suddenly her life is transformed. Whisked away to live on her grandmother's gracious property, she falls under the eye of the rich and handsome Harry Beecham and soon she finds herself choosing between everything a conventional life offers and her own plans for a 'brilliant career'."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143105051, Paperback)

The fierce, irreverent novel of aspiration and rebellion that is both a cornerstone of Australian literature and a feminist classic

Miles Franklin began the candid, passionate, and contrary My Brilliant Career when she was only sixteen, intending it to be the Australian answer to Jane Eyre. But the book she produced-a thinly veiled autobiographical novel about a young girl hungering for life and love in the outback-so scandalized her country upon its appearance in 1901 that she insisted it not be published again until ten years after her death.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:35:30 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Aust'n. Classic fiction. Miles Franklin began the candid, passionate, and contrary My Brilliant Career when she was only sixteen, intending it to be the Australian answer to Jane Eyre. But the book she produced-a thinly veiled autobiographical novel about a young girl hungering for life and love in the outback-so scandalized her country upon its appearance in 1901 that she insisted it not be published again until ten years after her death.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

Two editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0143105051, 1921922192

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