Good review, excerpted below, of an important book and author. Stella Miles Franklin’s novel My Career Goes Bung (The End of My Career) has far more going for it than most novels today, also as much as or more than the valuable and acclaimed novels written about the same time, such as Kate Chopin’s The Awakening and Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie. See an excerpt at Lib Lit, as well as an excerpt of another valuable neglected novel, The Marrow of Tradition, by Charles Chesnutt.
I’m not in the habit of writing fan letters, but I am very tempted to write to Jill Roe to thank her for writing this magnificent biography. Stella Miles Franklin, A Biography is not just an authoritative exploration of the life of one of my literary heroes, it’s also an intriguing read in its own right. It’s excellent because it is so well structured, because the author’s prose is a pleasure to read and because the scholarship shines through without being heavy-handed.
Roe has not only read Franklin’s oeuvre and her voluminous correspondence, she has also read the books that Franklin enjoyed and considered memorable; she has read the most obscure of reviews about Franklin’s work, and she has the knack of using an apt comment from her sources to amplify her own analysis of events. It is this perceptive analysis which sets this biography apart from the Olley biography which relies on commentary instead.
Almost everyone is familiar with My Brilliant Career – from the film if not from the novel – but I was intrigued to see that whereas today this book tends to be analysed in terms of gender and psychology, in Franklin’s day it was viewed through the perspectives of autobiography and class. Sybylla was rebellious and ‘unladylike’ it is true, but it was the gulf between the impoverished selectors and the squatters that lay at the heart of her rejection of Henry Beecham. Even though she mellowed a little in her old age, Franklin was always radical in her opinions and politics, and nationalism and feminism were equally important in shaping both her professional and personal life.