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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 refined aesthetic lifestyle to read to think to sing but most of all to do great thingsSuddenly 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'

10 thoughts on “My Brilliant Career

  1. says:

    In 1901 a remarkable heroine made her debut in a book that purports to be her autobiographyIf you took eual amounts of Becky Sharp Cassandra Mortmain and Angel Devereaux if you mixed them together with verve and brio and you might achieve a similar result but you wouldn’t uite get there because Sybylla Melvyn is a true one offShe’s also nearly impossible to explain; a curious mixture of confidence and insecurity tactlessness and sensitivity forthrightness and thoughtfulness She’s maddening andshe’s utterly charming But the most important thing about Sybylla the thing that she doesn’t ever uite say is that she wants to set her own path in life to be mistress of her own destiny That’s not easy when you’re the daughter of a poor farmer from Possum Gully It was a hard life; you were either working or you were sleeping; there was nothing else Her mother came from a good family and her father a working man had tried to improve his family’s situation but he gambled and lost And then he turned to drink It was hardly surprising that Sybylla’s preoccupation with books music and drama drove her poor mother to distractionIn the end she decided to send Syblla to her own mother on the family farm It was a much bigger much prosperous farm and it was much closer to society Sybylla was in her element with time to indulge her love for the arts and performing and with an appreciative audience; her grandmother aunt and uncle were amused and entertained She blossomed and her insecurity about her appearance and her disappointment with the world began to slip awayShe might have gone to Sydney to become a performer guided by a family friend lawyer Everard Grey She might have married Harry Beecham the owner of the neighbouring farm who was well off enough and indulgent enough to allow her the freedom to write her book But she dithered and as soon as anyone got to close she pushed them away She still had insecurities and she still wanted to be in charge of her own fate and to dream her own dreamsBut Sybylla’s fate wasn’t in her own hands; her father had taken out a loan and in lieu of interest he had given his daughter’s services as a governess In a place so much poorer and starker than Possum Gully She pleaded to be rescued but she was stuck there She tried to hold on but it was a struggle and I think it would be fair to say that Sybylla was not cut out to be a governessSybylla’s story ended where it started – at Possum Gully That sounds downbeat but it wasn’t entirely because she had lived and learnedAs a story ‘My Brilliant Career’ is much like it’s heroine; brilliant but infuriating Because of course Sybylla is the story and though the other characters are well drawn and the story is well told everything else is in her shadowI had unanswered uestions Why was her mother uite so hard on her? How did Sybylla become uite so accomplished? And why did nobody ever really lose patience with her?But I loved following Sybylla’s journey watching her grow up and it was lovely to see her gaining a little tact and diplomacy maturity even along the way The writing is overblown and melodramatic but it suits the heroine and it paints her world wonderfully well And best of all it shows the restrictions that her gender and the times she lived placed on her and it shows that none of that can break her spiritIt’s a coming of age story – no and no less – but it’s a coming of age story like no otherMiles Franklin wrote ‘My Brilliant Career’ when she was just sixteen years old It’s a wonderful achievement and though she was upset that it was read as autobiographical it’s unsurprising that it was taken that way I suspect that there’s a grain of truth a vivid imagination has turned into a compelling storyCertainly that’s what Sybylla would have done

  2. says:

    About time this ‘Aussie girl’ read this book written by a fellow ‘Aussie girl’ Miles Franklin the iconic Australian author has penned this classic written when she was barely an adult herself She was a woman born of another era Her times were meant to be spent toiling the land or should I say house performing house duties and supporting her family that was lacking money She was better than that – well she knew she was better spent bettering herself and continuing the continuance of lifelong learning she yearned to be able to write perform music and use her cleverness for something better Sybylla is 16 and this is ‘her’ story I am not overly romantic or have any grandiose visions of happily ever afters or needing a man to complete a picture of happiness but even I was disappointed for her Miles comments that there is no plot as her life does not contain one – or anyone else that she knows has one either There is too much work to be toiled than to have the luxury of a plot Harry Beecham calling her Syb made me sad as he was lovely There was also another lovely scene where Sybylla talks of Harry’s lovely large comforting hands I borrowed the physical copy after listening to this on audio but searching for a little paragraph to place the uote here was too hardAn interesting classic that has its little bit of relevance todayAs an after thought and after perusing a lovely hard copy that was donated to the University library where I work I would not recommend listening to the audio version Too much to be missed out on in regards to the poetry

  3. says:

    “life itself is anything beyond a heartless little chimera it is as real in its weariness and bitter heartache” I read this book for university and at first I wasn't that into it but it grew on me a lot as it went on and I particularly enjoyed the middle section This is Jane Eyre meets Pride and Prejudice in the Australian bush Except Miles Franklin is kind of critical of Jane Eyre and wants to subvert your expectations of romance and the romance genre Lots of people seem not to like Sybylla but I did She's got a lot of flaws and the way she constantly changed her mind frustrated me but I liked her strength of character I also liked what Franklin did with her character at the end it's what I constantly whine about saying Jane Eyre should have been and it's nice to actually see that happen Harold Beecham the love interest was also actually genuinely sweet which is kind of crazy for a classic Franklin also has beautiful writing the descriptions of the Australian bush were vivid and the emotional language she used allowed you to enter these characters minds with ease Overall I really enjoyed this I could actually see myself rereading it in the future which isn't always the case with classics

  4. says:

    Hmm I've always said that Jane Eyre is without a doubt my #1 favorite book After today this is in close running for the spot So much to think about Sigh I hope my review to come later will do this book justice

  5. says:

    35★sSybylla Melvyn was the eldest of her siblings and living in poverty with her parents in rural NSW in the late 1800s She fought with her mother constantly was wilful and headstrong and after being told by her mother continually that she was ugly and useless Sybylla believed it all The day came that she was sent to live with her maternal grandmother and aunt on a property which was the opposite of her family home; she flourished under their care enjoyed music and the arts and the company of genteel companions But her headstrong nature and constant assurance that she wasn’t worthy of anyone’s love would drive all around her to distraction When she met young Harold Beecham wealthy owner of the adjoining property his uietness and seeming lack of emotion caused Sybylla some angst After a time a sudden and unexpected change of circumstances meant Harold departed while Sybylla left the comfort of her grandmother’s home for a position as governess for a number of slovenly children in an eually filthy homeI’m glad I read this very Australian classic; the descriptions of the harsh country in the never ending drought the hard work of property owners to make ends meet the struggle of families to put food on the table – what a terrible time those long ago days were Sybylla was a difficult character to like – her arrogance on the one hand and low opinion of herself on the other made her someone I felt the great need to slap Again and again Anyone who hasn’t read this classic Australian novel which seems like an autobiography but isn’t by the wonderful Miles Franklin Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin most definitely should do so

  6. says:

    Miles Franklin Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin is probably Australia's most revered female writer My Brilliant Career is her very first book published in 1901 when she was barely 21 It was hugely successful but she eventually withdrew it from publication until after her death because it upset her that so many people believed it to be autobiographical It probably was so but like most new writers she perhaps didn't think others would make the connectionsIt's a passionate book both about life and love and about the Australian bush The heroine Sybylla Melvyn is probably as boisterous and passionate as Franklin was herself The writing is of its time it's wordy and descriptive often overblown by today's preferences but the fierceness with which she loves the country and its people carries the novel through Sometimes I wanted to slap Sybylla often in fact but she was a girl on a mission her own life and nothing was going to stop her Not even the perfect man when he appeared on the horizon She was an early Australian feministMiles Franklin went on to write another seven novels under her name and seven as Brent of Bin Bin in an effort to hide her identity She also wrote several non fiction booksIt's a masterfully written book by such a young first time writer especially for its time But you need to be prepared for long wordy reflective passages Just go with itIt almost seems cheeky to give it a rating so I'll just go with 5

  7. says:

    I have a bit of a lovehate relationship with this bookFor its time and the fact that it was written by Franklin when she was a teenager it is a brilliant novel The writing ability that Franklin had so young is amazing she manages to capture so much of Australia and her protagonist Sybylla lives and breathes from the first moment she steps onto the pageI did find Sybylla to be a frustrating protagonist due to her general inability to decide on what she wants or who she wants but that frustrating nature is part of what makes her feel real Even when she was annoying me with her indecision and mood swings I found myself wishing fervently that she would get what she wanted if she could only decide what it wasI'm really glad that I picked this up as part of the Australian Women's Writer's Challenge since I'd shamefully not read any of Franklin's work before I find myself awed by her talent and deeply impressed with how much she worked to change the face of Australian literature

  8. says:

    3and a half stars I don’t remember reading this at school if I did it didn’t leave an impression Sybylla is both a wonderful and an awful character she’s an overwrought self obsessed teenager one minute and almost wise the next I enjoyed reading this book though not for her but for the slice of Australian life in the 1890s that she describes The hard life of all those on the land whether they be wealthy or poor is shown so well I’m uite impressed that Miles Franklin didn’t go for the obvious ending She stays true to her lead character being uniue for a woman of her time

  9. says:

    About a year ago I realised with the exception of Nick Cave I'd never actually read any books by Australian authors and that I should probably fix that I throughly enjoyed this book I couldn't uite believe it was written by a 16 year old It was sort of the anti Little House on the Praire Here being a poor agricultural worker was very hard work people went hungary and people lost what little they had very easily There were drunken fathers who ruined lives and kindly neighbours who helped out The book was also a little the opposite of Jane Austen as while there was a wealthy landowner who fell for the young heroine she definitely did NOT fall in love with him back and spent most of the book trying to escape his marriage proposals I have to say I really enjoyed the character of Sybylla She was highly opinionated She was disatisfied with life and wanted music literature and culture Yet she gave up on these things to maintain her own independence She was a very strong willed person and yet the same time suffered from very low self esteem to the point where it crippled her ability to make good descisions She came across as somewhat manic depressive blissfully happy and then having a depressive breakdown Yet her emotions were very real and her discussions very frank I loved the way she spoke very openly about the problems of her life and the society she was living in From the sexism to the drinking to the droughts If she reminded me of anyone it was a little of Claudine from Collette's novels Though perhaps slightly intelligent and insightful But I think the two of them would have made a truly fantastic couple This really was a fantastic book and I have already bought a copy of the seual and am really looking forward to reading it

  10. says:

    Henry Lawson famously avoided making an opinion on the ‘girlishly emotional’ parts of this book so this ‘girl reader’ is going out on a limb to say that it is precisely those parts that make this book worth reading In refusing to give us a romantic heroine who plays by the rules of the genre Miles Franklin has created a rare and fascinating character Instead of reassuring us Franklin leaves open the crucial uestions of what is good conduct in a young woman and what is a price worth paying to secure financial security The teenage Sybylla is flamboyant disrespectful and given to freuent solipsism She is driven almost mad by her lack of options as a poor and apparently ‘ugly’ ‘little bush girl’ and despite the obvious economic risks refuses to conform or even apologise for that lack of conformity where this would imply divergence with her own conscience Ralph Waldo Emerson as author of “Self reliance” would have been proud Or would he? Miles Franklin was way ahead of her time in giving a young woman the right to sacrifice the prospect of husband and family for her own conscience Yes it’s Australian but it’s not the cloying nineteenth century morality tale you might expect and it’s far easier to read than the nineteenth century English novels with a galloping rhythm and a great ear for dialogue Chapter Twelve was the low point for me After that I began to seriously appreciate Miles Franklin for creating a complex often annoying and thoroughly likeable character in Sybylla Penelope Melvyn Happy Australia Day to lazy ungrateful sheilas everywhere