Zoë (Ann) Fairbairns S. M. Mowbray - Essay

S. M. Mowbray

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The title [Stand We at Last] comes from a Women's Movement hymn which also includes the discouraging line 'Life, strife, these two are one'—an apt enough comment for the central characters of this novel. It is a kind of Women's Lib. family saga…. The five heroines have a terrible time. Illegitimate children, VD, destitution, forced registration as prostitutes, rape, infidelity and desertion by their menfolk, and of course the pains of childbirth—these are only a few of their troubles. The most intrepid of the book's heroines is Sarah, who works her fingers to the bone in Australian exile and finally goes down gloriously in the Titanic; the most irritating is Jackie, who loses her virginity under the influence of marijuana and throws up a career in medicine to be a drop-out relying on the charity of the Women's Centre.

The author was poetry editor for Spare Rib and is involved in running a feminist library. The history in her book is well researched and, in spite of the catchpenny sensationalism, it fills a gap in the ranks of fiction relevant to the Women's Movement…. Readers who enjoyed Zoë Fairbairns's last novel, Benefits …, which was set in the future, will salute her versatility and professionalism. It is perhaps not her fault that the shoulder-to-shoulder march of feminism as depicted in this novel, with its automatic approval of such issues as abortion and its closing of ranks against men, ultimately appears an oddly pathetic victory.

S. M. Mowbray, in a review of "Stand We at Last," in British Book News, June, 1983, p. 389.