H(esba) F(ay) Brinsmead The Times Literary Supplement - Essay

The Times Literary Supplement

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

At least half the anguish of adolescence is ecstatic clutching at the treasures of an opening world. Growing pains may come largely from indigestion, from too big and greedily gulped a helping of life.

So it is with H. F. Brinsmead's Binny Flambeau (in A Sapphire for September)…. The author draws an irresistible picture of her absurd, adorable heroine in the pangs of first love…. After the absorbing, always convincing adventures, dramatic and comic, which form the action of the book, Binny has enjoyed—or suffered—many experiences, has visited worlds outside the crowded streets of Sydney, and is on the threshold of another discovery, of her self.

A Sapphire for September is one of those books into which the reader dips again and again and each time pulls out a different kind of gem: evocative descriptions of city and desert not grafted on to the narrative but growing out of it; portraits of colourful people, all individual, sometimes a shade larger than life but never exaggerated, all—even the nasty ones—drawn with an affectionate understanding; as much as anything a passionate concern for the beauty of stone and the technique of handling it.

Is it a quality of young countries to find serious things funny? Mrs. Brinsmead has in the richest measure this quality, which is to be found in so much of the vigorous literature of Australia.

"Overture, Beginners …," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1967; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 3431, November 30, 1967, p. 1155.∗