The Newspaper of Claremont Street

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The families for whom Margarite Morris works know her only as “Weekly” or “The Newspaper,” a drab, hardworking woman who cleans faultlessly while she gathers and reports the news of the neighborhood. They are unaware of her memories and her dreams. For the Morris family, emigration to Australia had brought no new prosperity but merely poverty in a new setting, poverty which at last brought Margarite’s mother a jail sentence for thievery and landed Margarite in an institution. Brooding on the insecurity that marked her past, the cleaning woman has arrived at a goal: to own something, specifically a house and a piece of land. When the novel begins, Weekly is ready to buy her place in the country and to retire.

Unfortunately, she cannot turn her back on newly widowed Nastasya Torben, an impoverished aristocrat, who demands to go with Weekly to the country. In the final section of the novel, the two women must struggle, Nastasya for the domination to which she is accustomed, Weekly for the independence for which she has worked so hard.

The bizarre conclusion of the novel is as typical of Elizabeth Jolley’s work as is the psychologically complex action which precedes it. While most of Jolley’s other novels conclude with the triumph of human love, however, here her emphasis is on the tragedy that results when a human being tries to sacrifice the needs of her own spirit to the demands of another.