I’ve been quite disappointed in the amount I’ve been able to read this month so far. Not sure what’s happened, but I think a combination of quite a lot of work on leaving me not so much time in the daytime for sitting and reading and some busy weekends (somehow. How?). How many of these books shown that I intended to read this month have I read? Two and a bit so far …

But I have managed to read a book for Brona’s Australia Reading Month, and it’s one I kept aside for a while, leaving it out of All Virago / All August so I could read it in November! I started reading it in the nice Virago copy shown here but the print was SO SMALL and a bit blurry in places, so I downloaded a copy from Project Gutenberg and read it on my Kindle, returning to the Virago for the introduction at the end.

Ada Cambridge – “The Three Miss Kings”

(December 2019, Oxfam Books)

Elizabeth, Patty and Eleanor King are newly orphaned when we meet them, just about to leave the rustic cottage they grew up in, saying goodbye to their woodland pets and simple friends and preparing to move to Melbourne. There, over the course of a year, they meet the loves of their lives, suffer a reversal of fortune and meet a fairy godmother – there’s a lot of coincidence and plot in this book but only as much as a Dickens or Hardy novel published in parts, as this was in the 1890s, might have.

Alongside the romance we have some quite long and careful discussions of important topics: how to move from the country to the city; how to be a lady; whether innocence is more attractive than sophistication; what makes a good musician; who should look after the poor and unfortunate and how; are all religions in fact one in the end? This makes for a few stodgy passages but the best parts are the sparks between the sisters and their fellow citizens, the lovely descriptions, ranging from a deserted Australian clifftop to an Elizabethan manor house in England, and the excellent relationship between the sisters. These themes and descriptions and the historical value of the depiction of Melbourne society in the 1880s are presumably what compelled Virago to republish this in 1987.

I enjoyed finding out more about this period in Australian life and seeing the development of the heroines’ taste and fortunes.