Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner is a beloved Australian children’s classic that was first published in 1894 and has never been out of print since. So it with some trepidation and ducking of the head that I am going to say that I was fairly underwhelmed when I finally got around to reading it. My three girls read it before me – they were about 9 years of age when they first read it. As far as I remember, they all liked it, although it didn’t appeal to them as much as some of the other Australian classics they read around the same age e.g. The Silver Brumby and Billabong books.
At one point the story reminded me of an incident in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, which was published twenty-five years earlier. Meg is the eldest daughter of the family in this book, as was Meg (Margaret) in Little Women. In both books ‘Meg’ is influenced by another girl to put on airs and act out of character and a young man is pivotal in both instances in helping \’Meg\’ see the foolishness of her behaviour.
My 12 year old re-read Seven Little Australians recently so I asked her if it reminded her of any other book she’d read. It hadn’t, and I mentioned that I thought in one part that it was similar to Little Women. Her reply was that ‘Seven Little Australians didn’t carry on about morals, unlike Little Women…\’
Not one of the seven is really good, for the very excellent reason that Australian children never are.
But my daughter also said that she hated the ending.
Which brings me to a couple of things I think was problematic with the story: the ending felt rushed and melodramatic, and the characters were never satisfyingly developed. I never felt I got to know anyone well enough and out of the two characters I thought had development potential, one is dispatched by the author before the story finishes.
However, the book is definitely worth reading and the writing itself is excellent and of literary quality, as you would expect of a classic that has never been out of print.
Linking up for the AusReading Challenge 2017 @ Brona\’s Books