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The Long Prospect – Elizabeth Harrower

The Long Prospect - Elizabeth Harrower

The Long Prospect – Elizabeth Harrower

Elizabeth Harrower has been rediscovered by Text – I have read The Watch Tower (no review – sorry) and was keen to read this one as well.

Here is the blurb …

Sharply observed, bitter and humorous, The Long Prospect is a story of life in an Australian industrial town.

Growing up neglected in a seedy boarding house, twelve-year-old Emily Lawrence befriends Max, a middle-aged scientist who encourages her to pursue her intellectual interests. Innocent Emily will face scandal, suburban snobbery and psychological torment.

Originally published in 1958, The Long Prospect was described as second only to Patrick White’s Voss in postwar Australian literature.

I struggled with this novel. I don’t know why and once I was past the middle I just zoomed through it. Lilian (Emily’s grandmother), Paula  and Harry are all terrible characters. Lilian, in particular, is spiteful and hard. Emily is cared for from a physical point of view; fed, clothed, educated, etc, but no one looks after her emotionally she is ignored and teased. Max is the one person who pays her attention and hopes to help her escape through education, but ultimately he is defeated by petty squabbles between Lilian and her cronies. Ms Harrower writes about seemingly small minor events that have an enormous effect on someone’s life. Billie and Rosen are both jealous of Max and insinuate that his relationship with Emily is not innocent. Lilian doesn’t believe it, but is looking for a way of getting rid of Max and Emily and so goes along with it. Max leaves and Emily moves to Sydney to live with her parents (who are forced to move in together to provide a home for Emily). So one small act of petty jealousy and four lives are dramatically altered.

This is a quiet novel about psychological development. What effect does neglect and negativity have on a person’s character? What happened to Lilian? Will Emily end up the same as Lilian?


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