Friday, 26 March 2010

Painted clay (Boake) 231

A very little known VMC, The painted clay, by a fairly unknown author, Capel Boake (in fact a pen name) came to my attention merely by being on ebay for £2.75 and having an intriguing title. Such risks sometimes pay off, and sometimes don't, but I'm happy to report that this was a good read, albeit slightly depressing.

Set in Melbourne at the beginning of the 20th century, Painted Clay is the story of Helen and her isolated existence. We meet her living with her father, not hugely happy, and uncertain as to the whereabouts of her mother. After he commits suicide, her life changes; she moves in with a neighbour and takes up employment in a shop. This she finds unfulfilling, but starts to study shorthand in her spare time. Eventually she is given work in an office, run by her uncle, her only living relative, before moving to an artist's community. Throughout the story, the theme of Helen's isolation seems to recur, along with the issue of where she belongs and what she wants to be doing; the absence of her mother hangs heavily over her, until she re-appears halfway into the book. I enjoyed following Helen's life and wondering what might happen to her but at the same time wished that she could find a more fulfilling existence.

Boake wrote three other novels, but achieved little literary success so it is good that this found its way into the VMC list. Just published the once with this rather striking cover image.

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