Original date of publication: 1909
My edition: 1986 (Virago Modern Classics)
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: Amazon UK, June 2012
Some Everyday Folk and Dawn is set during a monumental time in Australian history: women have just achieved suffrage, and the defining moment of this novel is the first election in which they have the ability to vote. The women’s suffrage movement in Australia, like its counterparts in the US and Britain, had its roots in the 19th century, but it seems as though it was met with a lot less resistance. This novel deals with the ways in which the town of Noonoon, in New South Wales (the Everyday Folk of the title), deal with this change, as two candidates come to town: one who puts himself forward as the “women’s candidate” and the other for the men.
On a more immediate novel, the books is set around a boarding house in Noonoon run by Grandma Clay, a fierce, energetic, and talkative woman who lives with her granddaughter Dawn and grandson Andrew. The immediate story is the development of a love affair between Dawn and a local athlete named Ernest Breslow (although she fights her attraction to him; Dawn is surprisingly pragmatic for her age). Their story is narrated through the point of view of our unnamed narrator, an actress who comes to the town to recuperate from an unspecified illness.
Overall, I really enjoyed this story—both the love story and the overall theme about the differences between women and men. I think the back cover made it seem as though there would be much more conflict between the townspeople over the issue of suffrage, but the real struggle, and the real focus of the book, is the struggle that Dawn faces: should she choose her ambition to be an actress, or should she choose marriage? I think the modern reader might be disappointed with her choice, but I can see why, from Dawn’s point of view, she chose to do what she did.
I also enjoyed miles Franklin’s style of writing. There’s also a clear difference between her writing style in My Brilliant Career and Some Everyday Folk and Dawn; after all, she was 8 years older when she wrote the second book, so her style in this book is far more mature. Still, I thought there were places where our narrator thought she was a little too flippantly clever, and a little too self-serving, such as in the matter of matchmaking. Still, I really enjoyed this book.