Monday, 28 September 2009

My career goes bung (Franklin) 52

I've been applying for jobs over the last year or so to make the "next step" in my career, but have had very little success due to the recession, the competition for jobs in the area where I live, and my relative lack of experience compared with older candidates. Recieved another job rejection this week, so decided that My career goes bung was an appropriate book to read (I was in quite a grumpy mood at the time). I really enjoyed reading My brilliant career the other week, and although I normally try to leave a reasonable gap before reading sequels, I was very keen to find out what happened to Sybella after My brilliant career ended.

I loved this quote from the back cover "Sybella is, she clamours for LIFE and refuses to tolerate anything which stands in her way".

According to the introduction, although Franlkin wrote this aged 22, only 3 years after My Brilliant Career was published, it was not published for forty years. However, it was published pretty much as completed in 1902, and not later edited. Apparently the work was considered "too audacious" for publication owing to the satirical and feminist overtones of the work.

As in my Brilliant Career we get a wonderful sense of Sybella (Franklin) through the tenor of the writing; it is enthusiastic, unselfconscious and extremely teenage. At some points - with passages such as this:
"To escape making a short story long, my idol welcomed my attempt with cheers for its ORIGINALITY, and asked, would I trust him with the manuscript? WOULD I!!!!!" - I felt that Franklin could almost be writing early 20th century chick-lit, and would undoubtedly be published in some sort of pink cover if she were writing today. She describes and analyses her relationships with her parents and other family members in the self-exploring way that we are used to in 21st century fiction. In some ways I felt that the Sybella described in this book was a much more honest description than the earlier book, it just felt more real and authentic to me.
It starts with her sitting down to try to write her book, with a ream of 480 sheets of paper and describes her life at home on the farm with her Ma and Pa. The book is published, much to the dismay of Ma and Pa who don't believe that she has anything worth saying and who think it will cost them much money, and to their surprise is an absolute hit, being read by everyone for miles around. Sybella is beset with proposals, and then pursues a number of love affairs. Not all of the critics are congratulatory; it is suggested that she has written a bad advertisement of Australians and gone against the church. She then goes to Sydney and gets involved in SOCIETY; grand dresses, lunches, balls...and finds that not all of this compares favourably with the life she is accustomed too - the cooking isn't as good as her Ma's for example, and she feels beset by her inexperience in such situations and fear of BEING LED ASTRAY. Eventually after lots of adventure, including being offered to write a society column for a newspaper, she returns home and "Bung went my career in Sydney". She is discontented with life at home, she writes odd stories for newspapers but says...
"For what does it matter if a scribe gain the encouragement of CRITICS and become the hope of booksellers and circulating libraries that he will write a second bestseller if the scribe himself does not gain enough profit either to earn the respect of those he lives among or to escape from them". Her book has become a classic, she still has an offer of marriage, but she is still stuck in Possum Gully.

Just the one cover - I really hope Virago will republish this to complement My Brilliant Career.


  1. I saw this at a second hand bookstore over the weakend, and almost picked it up. Now, I wish I had....

  2. weekend* - I do know how to spell!!

  3. I love Miles Franklin! I haven't read this though. I keep seeing it but haven't bought it yet...I will next time. Good luck with the job hunt Verity, I'm in the same position!

  4. Anothercookie - go back and buy it!
    Rachel - pick it up when you next see it!
    Seriously, this is really entertaining, and quite different from her first one.

  5. Very good luck with the job hunt. It will work out eventually, and in the meantime you don't seem to be wasting your time, at least theres chances to make really elegent afternoon tea...

  6. lol, I blame you - you should've written the review earlier!!!! :)

  7. I just finished reviewing this on my blog ( and I thought Id look around and see what other people thought of it. I enjoyed it just as much as you did, in fact I think I prefered it to My Brilliant Career. I liked the 'true' Sybylla Melvin better than the 'fictional' one. It was a fun read!

  8. Thanks for stopping by Becky - it was a good read; I enjoyed both of the books immensely.