I received this book from my book-loving Auntie, but would have probably relegated it to by TBR mountain were it not for moving house and therefore having all my other books packed away. I therefore was sort of forced into reading it this week, which I was very glad for! The Getting of Wisdom is marvellous, a schooldays story but with adult bite. Reading it as a grown up one can look with hindsight at the vast array of mistakes the heroine makes and sigh. One can also be made very angry by the horrors of youth, and the awful situation in which Laura finds herself in. It’s a bit like watching Mean Girls, if Mean Girls was set in a 19th century Australian boarding school; it shows how bitchy teenage girls have always been bitchy teenage girls, even before teenagers were invented.
Sent away to school by her snobbish, but skint mother, Laura is thrust into a terrifying world of unsympathetic adults and incomprehensible and unspoken rules. Forced into a new way of being-no longer able to be naturally clever and assertive but instead worried into minding her manners and learning from rote, Laura changes from a bright and inquisitive girl to an anxious muddle of worry and self-doubt. The school system is throughly damned in this novel, loosely based on the author’s own experiences of school. What is further damned, however, is the snide world of the teenage girl. Anyone who was bullied into being something other than themselves at school will find themselves nodding along to parts of this books, and I found myself wanting to give one particular little cow a good old slap.
The book is beautifully written, and very easy to read, despite being over 100 years old it doesn’t have that Edwardian ‘feel’ that some do, perhaps because it is Australian, whose literary canon I have to admit to being very lax in my knowledge of. If you enjoyed school stories of feisty young girls as a child, then as a grown up, give this a go. It may surprise you.