Plot is subordinate to character in Tirra Lirra by the River, and character and events are rendered through the perceptions and judgments of Nora Porteous. Her story is one of swings between bleakness and beauty, between art and reality, and it is the story of her investigation of her own nature.
Nora is taunted in her youth by her sister Grace with the sarcastic remark “Who does she think she is?” Reading poetry and prose of “the bejewelled sort,” waiting for Lancelot, but, more important, inventing Camelot, “a region of my mind where infinite expansion was possible,” Nora lives a romantic life of suspension and waiting, waiting to be taken from her alien landscape, her practical family, and her dull neighbors into a world of similar temperaments where there will be no need to explain herself, where she will be at home.
In Sydney, having misjudged her Prince, Nora is forced to leave her like-minded friends and move into her mother-in-law’s house, into a situation more terrible than the one she left in Brisbane. In a valiant attempt to impose beauty where there is none, Nora begs a pittance to make a yellow bedcover, whitewash the walls, and paint the floor black. Once again, she endures the taunt, “Who does she think she is?” She is ridiculed as she searches for a job, and having no other possibility, she endures five years of marriage until Colin divorces her.
Nora is a strong, courageous woman. She sails to London in hopes of new Camelot. When she gets pregnant, she endures a painful, near-fatal abortion without complaint. She educates herself, starts a business, saves her money, and when her personal beauty fails, as does a...
(The entire section is 692 words.)