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

The Times Literary Supplement

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

"Children's books"—what can be done with this awkward, misleading term? Readers here, of course, will know very well how nearly adult the novels can be that come within its scope. They may also have observed how increasingly fashionable is the fictional age-zone between 16 and 20 or so…. Has any one of our current leading dozen novelists yet resisted an experiment in this field? Probably not—and out of all of them, few can have attacked it with more personality and verve than H. F. Brinsmead, who has, in fact, preferred this "older" age-group from the start.

One has to remember that Brinsmead people are also Australian, in an Australian scene: suns burn brighter, spaces are vaster, landscapes wilder, humans more direct. Perhaps the Brinsmead approach might not match other settings; perhaps even here it imposes something of its own vigour. But in her novels the method does succeed; and Listen to the Wind is as characteristic a work as we may find.

How to describe this method? You take, as it were, a rich chunk of the Brinsmead life and landscape, then bring to the forefront a diverse set of characters, adult or younger (the young have the principal plotlines, but there are others). Running through also are one or two controversial ideas and some special expertise. In Listen to the Wind, idea, plotlines and expertise are fused through the friendship (in a small town on an island off the eastern Australian coast) of a white girl and a native (coloured) boy….

A curious and exhilarating book, not all of it on the surface; not all of it to be absorbed at the first race through.

"Post-School Zone," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1970; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 3583, October 30, 1970, p. 1266.∗