Thomas Christensen    right reading news service

homeward bound



Each of her novels is an effort to understand and to make us understand the complexities of a human situation, and this is in itself an invigorating and sometimes subversive exercise in following truth along unexpected paths.
    — Karen McLeod

Your little rag of a girl is a most adorable little beast . . .
    — H. G. Wells

Readers who had enjoyed Henry Handel Richardson's first novel, Maurice Guest, must have been perplexed when The Getting of Wisdom appeared two years later, in 1910.

Maurice Guest was the story of an English piano student who falls in love with a young Australian woman; attempting to win her away from a brilliant, dissolute Polish violinist, he begins a tortured descent that ends in suicide. It was "a book set within the closed hothouse atmosphere of a conservatorium"1 combining "the realistic expansiveness of many characters and many events with a gathering claustrophobic intensity that does not let up until the final page."2 ("Morbid, depressing, dull, verbose, degraded, coarse, erotic and neurotic were some of the adjectives applied to this book," the author later complained.)3

Now, in his second book, Mr. Richardson had turned to the trivial concerns of an Australian schoolgirl.

continue reading ...






This essay was the introduction to the 1993 Mercury House reissue of The Getting of Wisdom.


more nonfiction



1 Ken Goodwin, A History of Australian Literature (London: Macmillan, 1986), 62.
return to text

2 Karen McLeod, Henry Handel Richardson: A Critical Study (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 36.
return to text

3 Nettie Palmer, Henry Handel Richardson: A Study (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1950), 43.
return to text


top of page
home | © 1993 by Thomas Christensen