Tag Archives: classics

Review: Haxby’s Circus

Haxby’s Circus by Katharine Susannah Prichard

Run away to the circus with this book by award-winning Australian novelist Katharine Susannah Prichard.

A world of wandering mushroom tents, spawning on bare paddocks beside some small town and then off again … places that smelt of milk and wheat, where the farmer people gave you milk and apples, or melons; you got fresh water to drink and a bath sometimes. A dirty, strenuous world. Cruel, courageous, a hard, hungry world for all the glitter and flare of its laughter; but a good world, her world.

Welcome to Haxby’s Circus – the lightest, brightest little show on earth. From Bendigo to Narrabri, travelling the long and dusty roads between harvest fields, the Haxby family and their troupe – acrobats, contortionists, wirewalkers, clowns and wild beasts – perform under the glaring lights of the big top. But away from the spotlight and superficial glamour of the circus the real, and sometimes tragic, lives of the performers are exposed: their hopes and dreams, successes and failures, the drudgery of life on the road.

Proprietor Dan Haxby lives by the maxim ‘the show must go on’, even when his daughter Gina, the bareback rider, has a dreadful accident. Gina may never ride again, but, with some advice from circus dwarf Rocca, who shows her how to transform her liability into art, she flourishes and discovers a courageous spirit within.

My Blurb (3.5 stars)

An impulse buy based on:
1. eye-catching cover: PINK!
2. I love anything CIRCUS related
3. Sale bin
4. Aussie classics

Did it live up to expectations? Yes and No… it’s a very realistic tale of circus life from the point of view of a woman. I love the glamourous face of a circus. Ever since I read Enid Blyton’s Circus series, I’ve always been enamoured (and a bit jealous) of the adventures of circus folks. This novel, however, does not spare you the drudgery and hard work of that life. And in that way, it’s a realistic story but it also made the novel hard to bear as sometimes the author would list of what needs doing etc. I found this last bit a little boring.

Gina Haxby has just bloomed into womanhood with the admiration of the crowd when she fell and broke her back. She will never again ride her beautiful horses nor perform any acrobatic feats. While her back is hunched, she’s lucky to still be alive and able to walk though it didn’t feel like that to her. She then found a reason to live; to protect her weak baby brother from her father’s expectations. Once again, tragedy struck and she decided not to stay with the circus but took her mother and new baby sister away.

She could not stay away forever, however, as fate brought them all back together. This time, however, she is a woman of strength and can stand on her own. Her little sister is also a strong character of her own and together, they will bring the circus back to its brightest.

I didn’t pay that much attention to the blurb at the back of the book before I started reading so I really was surprised when the first tragedy struck (oops!). I was really heartbroken for Gina as she’s such a lovable character but of course, steel needs tempering and that’s what’s happened. It wasn’t an easy road for Gina but she’s traversed it with help from her loved ones and flourished despite all that life dealt her.

I’ve read one other of this author’s work, Coonardo, and it was such a hard book to read (nature of topic). Haxby’s Circus was also a bit of a struggle as it was such a hard life that I barely felt the excitement of the circus. Plus the way she did lists became annoying and dreary after the first couple of times. Still, I did like the characters and the descriptions of life in Australia in those days.

About the author

Katharine Susannah Prichard was born in Levuka, Fiji in 1883, and spent her childhood in Launceston, Tasmania, before moving to Melbourne, where she won a scholarship to South Melbourne College. Her father, Tom Prichard, was editor of the Melbourne Sun newspaper. She worked as a governess and journalist in Victoria then travelled to England in 1908. Her first novel, The Pioneers (1915), won the Hodder & Stoughton All Empire Literature Prize. After her return to Australia, the romance Windlestraws and her first novel of a mining community, Black Opal were published.

Prichard moved with her husband, war hero Hugo “Jim” Throssell, VC, to Greenmount, Western Australia, in 1920 and lived at 11 Old York Road for much of the rest of her life. She wrote most of her novels and stories in a self-contained weatherboard workroom near the house. In her personal life she always referred to herself as Mrs Hugo Throssell. She had one son, Ric Throssell, later a diplomat and writer.

Review: Puberty Blues by Kathy Lette & Gabrielle Carey

Puberty Blues by Kathy Lette & Gabrielle Carey

Written twenty years ago, Puberty Blues is the bestselling account of growing up in the 1970s that took Australia by storm and spawned an eponymous cult movie. It also marked the starting point of Kathy Lette’s writing career, which sees her now as an author at the forefront of her field.

Puberty Blues is about top chicks and surfie spunks and the kids who don’t quite make the cut: it recreates with fascinating honesty a world where only the gang and the surf count. It’s a hilarious and horrifying account of the way many teenagers live and some of them die. Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey’s insightful novel is as painfully true today as it ever was.

My Blurb (3.5 / 5 stars)

Ok, wow, now I get all the controversy surrounding this book! I still don’t know whether to cry or laugh…

Cry because it’s saddened me, as an older woman, to hear these young teens (starting at 13 when they still haven’t had their periods yet) giving in to sex just cuz it’s what the boys wanted. And sorry but those boys sound like such losers! Gorgeous maybe but err all the girls did was what the boys wanted to do; I wanted to scream!!

Laugh because well, weren’t we all boy crazy at that age? I didn’t get to any of the shenanigans these girls got up to but then again, my life was very sheltered and I did go to a private Catholic girls school where most girls in my class are rather intelligent so yea… but I did remember the slathering baby oil to sunbath; ah, those were the days.

This book was set in the 70s so please do take that into consideration when reading. If you are a parent, be prepared for a fully open & honest conversation with your teens. If you are a teen, please please please have a chat with a trusted adult especially with your questions.

Really, these girls were just dreaming of romance and why shouldn’t they? We dream of romance at any and every age; I still do 😉 I am, however, thoroughly GLAD (capitals required to stress my feelings) with the ending. You go, girls!


Review: Belinda

Belinda by Maria Edgeworth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Click on cover to go to Goodreads.

Click on title to go to read this book online.

Available also on Google Books for free (note: it’s not available on Project Gutenberg)

Belinda is my perfect heroine.  She is not perfect but is my idea of a perfect heroine.  Her character in the beginning was questionable – take into consideration, however, her age, [in]experience, and naivety.  We then read her experiences in society as she learnt, grew speedily in maturity and gained such strong sensible noble characters then she definitely becomes one you’d wish for in a friend.

The first few chapters were a little shaky for me as I wasn’t sure if I could handle this kind of heroine then it turned to a little bit of a farce (for me) – a sort of gothic tone which I didn’t care for, until the time that Belinda learnt her lessons and became firm in her values.  The love triangle, of course, was actually fantastic.  Both men had their own appeals and throughout the book, I just never knew which one she would end up with, if any!  I kept on moving from one to the other, back and forth right up to the last chapter or two.

Belinda Portman is a niece of a known mercenary matchmaking aunt.  She is sent to stay with Lady Delacour to be exposed to the cream of society and catch a wealthy husband.  It is in Lady Delacour’s sitting room that she meets Clarence Hervey, an intelligent wealthy young man. A masquerade, a mysteriously locked boudoir, and a few unhealthy rumours later, found her bound for the country.

Lady Anne Percival is a lady of good sense with a very happy family.  In her home, Belinda witnesses what a spouse that you respect can mean in a marriage.  This is a big contrast to Lord & Lady Delacour’s marriage (if you can call that a ‘marriage’!).  Mr Vincent, a former ward of Lord Percival, fell in love with Belinda in this setting.  He was hopeful to win her but then she had to leave…

There are about 3 ‘things’ I didn’t particularly like as I found them to be unlikely however I believe they are written as humorous factors in the book except that it didn’t quite work for me.  This includes part of how the plot is resolved but this I can forgive as it allows me to enjoy the ending.

Belinda was published approximately 10 years before Sense & Sensibility and 12 years before Pride & Prejudice.  I reckon if you love Jane Austen, you will appreciate this book.

Here are some quotes to whet your appetite:

Belinda’s aunt’s advice to her:

Sir Philip, is not, I know, a man of what you call genius.  So much the better, my dear – those men of genius are dangerous husbands; they have so many dislikes and eccentricities, there is no managing them, though they are mighty pleasant men in company to enliven conversation.

For us bookworms:

[Mrs Freke] ‘You read, I see! – I did not know you were a reading girl.  So was I once; but I never read now.  Books only spoil the originality of genius: very well for those who can’t think for themselves – but when one has made up one’s opinion, there is no use in reading.’

‘But to make them up,’ replied Belinda, ‘may it not be useful?’

‘You, who can think for yourself, should never read.’

‘But I read that I may think for myself.’

‘Only ruin your understanding, trust me.  Books are full of trash – nonsense, conversation is worth all the books in the world.’

‘And is there never any nonsense in conversation?’

A discussion still in debate in today’s society!

‘To cut the matter short at once,’ cried Mrs Freke, ‘why, when a woman likes a man, does not she go and tell him so honestly?’

Belinda, surprised by this question from a woman, was too much abashed instantly to answer.

A Moving Moment [I really wanted to include this quote but had to take names out so it’s not too spoiler-ish]:

X’s love was not of that selfish sort which the moment that it is deprived of hope sinks into indifference, or is converted into hatred.  Y could not be his; but, in the midst of the bitterest regret, he was supported by the consciousness of his own honour and generosity: he felt a noble species of delight in the prospect of promoting the happiness of the woman upon whom his fondest affections had been fixed; and he rejoiced to feel that he had sufficient magnanimity to save a rival from ruin.