Monday, 10 August 2009

The getting of wisdom (Richardson) VMC 48

I was very excited when The getting of wisdom arrived on my doorstep, as it had come all the way from Chicago, from the kind librarything member Marensr, and it was my first encounter with a Dial Press Virago Modern Classic. I don't know very much about the Dial Press VMCs, but the most obvious difference is the black rather than green cover, and lack of an apple on the spine (even my boyfriend noticed the different colour and questioned why I had put it on the VMC shelf).

I pulled it off the shelf on Friday morning while I was waiting for my boyfriend to be ready to leave for our weekend away, and it proved to be the perfect companion while I spent the first day of our trip not feeling hugely well.

If you like school stories for adults, and VMCs such as Olivia or Frost in May, then you should definitely get hold of this one. This is the story of Laura, who has had a fairly unconventional upbringing by a widowed mother, sent away to an all-girls school in Melbourne in the early 1900s. Much of the book is about Laura's struggles to fit in, and her attempts to understand how life in a boarding school operates. Laura is immensely likeable, and in some ways her headstrong and independent nature reminded me a lot of children's books such as What Katy Did and the Laura Ingalls Wilder books as Laura is so headstrong and independent. One of the main episodes involves Laura pretending that the curate has a crush on her; finally she has managed to fit in with the boarding school world and achieve popularity, until it all crumbles when her pretence is discovered.

Henry Handel Richardson is the pseudonym for Ethel Richardson. My copy of the book had an interesting introduction by Germaine Greer, who tells us that the book is strongly autobiographical - Ethel Richardson was sent away to school in Melbourne, and obviously drew heavily on the experiences.

I think it has only been published the once by Virago, with this cover in green, but I own the copy of the Dial Press version at the bottom.
I checked my VMC list this morning and saw that one other Henry Handel Richardson is published by Virago, Maurice Guest. This is also heavily autobiographical, but deals with her time in Leipzig, so I am looking forward to encountering that. Thanks again to Marensr for her kindness in sending me this book.


  1. The kindness of the Library Thing Virago group knows no bounds and I owe most of my collection to their generosity.

    This sounds like a VMC I'd like. How many pages long is it?

  2. You're making very fast progress on your challenge. At this rate you'll have finished the entire list in a few more weeks.

    This book sounds very good, I'll put it on my wish list

  3. Claire - it wasn't long, about 250pp I think. Quite an easy read, and I really do think you'll like it.

    Swati - it is going well isn't it. I find myself gripped as you never know quite what a new author will be like. I got another one in last night! I'm not doing so well on current reading though...

  4. Sounds right up my street. I'm putting this on my 'to buy' list once I am allowed to buy books again! I like the green cover...a bit creepy, but in a good way!

  5. Rachel - definitely worth making a note of this one. I think the Dial Press one sums up the book a bit more - I imagined Laura as slightly older than she is depicted in the green one (although the book does describe her as looking young for her age)