Saturday, 31 October 2015

The Fortunes of Richard Mahony Readalong

AusReading Month begins tomorrow and this year I plan to read an Aussie classic chunkster.

The Fortunes of Richard Mahony is actually a trilogy.

Australia Felix (1917), The Way Home (1925) and Ultima Thule (1929).
The three volumes were brought together in 1930 as The Fortunes of Richard Mahony.


Henry Handel Richardson is the pen name for Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson.

Born on the 3rd January 1870 in Melbourne, Victoria to Walter Lindesay Richardson MD and Mary.
Ethel's family moved around Victoria regularly, until her mother, her sister, Lillian & Ethel settled in Maldon after the death of her father from syphilis. 

At the age of 13, Ethel became a boarder at Presbyterian Ladies College (PLC) in Melbourne.
Her experiences at PLC became the nucleus of her story The Getting of Wisdom (1910).

In 1888, Ethel's mother took the family to Europe to allow Ethel the opportunity to study music at the Leipzig Conservatory. Her first novel, Maurice Guest (1908) was set in Leipzig.

Studying German Literature at the same time was Scotsman John George Robertson.
In 1894 Ethel married Robertson and they moved to London together.

In 1912, Ethel returned to Australia to research her family history for the Richard Mahony books. 
This was her last time in Australia, living the remainder of her life in England.

She completed the first part of the Richard Mahony trilogy, Australia Felix in 1917.

The Australian Dictionary of Biography discusses that her portrait of Richard Mahony was really about her.

She declared once that a writer usually had all his material by the age of 10. The horrifying circumstances of Walter's illness and death, the permanent sense of insecurity inflicted on Ethel, marked her personality and her work. She had other problems: an uneasy relationship with her mother, and above all a large port-wine birth-mark stretching from her right shoulder to her hand, which embarrassed her painfully, even when a handsome young woman. Her childhood was spent moving from one home to another; after marriage, she spent thirty years in one house

Back in England, Ethel and her sister became heavily involved in the suffragette movement.
Robertson died in 1933. They had no children.

Her last novel was The Young Cosima in 1939.

Ethel died in Hastings, East Sussex, on the 20th March 1946 of cancer.

Ethel Florence Richardson by Rupert Bunny 1920's

My readalong plans are as follows:

Book I - Australia Felix - pg 3 -383   (380pgs)     1st -12th Nov, 2015
Book II - The Way Home - pg 387 - 657   (270pgs)     13th - 21st Nov, 2015
Book III - Ultima Thule - pg 661 - 941   (280pgs)     22nd- 30th Nov, 2015

Questions to ponder as we read:

  1. What have you learnt about the Australian way of life and history during this reading?
  2. Displacement - internal and external - is a central theme - what or where is home? Is it a place? An attitude? A person? An unattainable goal?
  3. Is it fate or fortune at work in Mahony's life?
If you'd like to join me, comment below and add your post links to the AusReading Month Master Post.

Tweet your favourite quotes & take a photo of where in the world you're reading The Fortunes of Richard Mahony 
#AusReadingMonth #RichardMahony #bronasbooks

But for now, it's time to begin...
In a shaft on the Gravel Pits, a man had been buried alive.

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