The Getting of Wisdom by Henry Handel Richardson

Published 1910 1. First lines. 2. Cover: Allen and Unwin 3. & 4. A selection of different editions. 5. Schoolgirls [Public Domain] via Pixabay

Laura Tweedle Rambotham lives with her family in country Victoria and when she turns twelve, she is sent to a boarding school in Melbourne. She feels as if she doesn’t fit in – her clothes, her family, her social awkwardness – all different to the girls from wealthier families. The story is told from her point of view, and details her thoughts and feelings as she tries to fit in.

  • Glanceabook: “Although this book was written in 1910, with its archaic language , it has a timeless quality to it, due in part due to theme – new girl has trouble fitting in, with incidents of bullying, teasing, telling lies to try to make friends, and playing pranks. The author portrays the characters realistically but I didn’t feel for them in any way.”
  • The Conversation: “Henry Handel Richardson’s The Getting of Wisdom is remarkable because it is one of few novels about a girl’s maturation that has come to be understood as a “classic” and also because it is ultimately a girls’ school story. HG Wells, who described the protagonist Laura Tweedle Rambotham as “an adorable little beast”, considered the book to be the best school story he’d ever read.”

“She went out from school with the uncomfortable sense of being a square peg, which fitted into none of the round holes of her world; the wisdom she had got, the experience she was richer by, had in the process of equipping her for life, merely seemed to disclose her unfitness.

“The Getting of Wisdom” by Henry Handel Richardson

Quotes:

“She could not then know that, even for the squarest peg, the right hole may ultimately be found.”

“One day at geography, the pupils were required to copy the outline of the map of England. Laura, about to begin, found to her dismay that she had lost her pencil. To confess the loss meant one of the hard, public rebukes from which she shrank. And so, while the others drew, heads and backs bent low over their desks, she fidgeted and sought – on her lap, the bench, the floor.”

Trailer of the 1977 movie adaptation

Author: Henry Handel Richardson, the pen name of Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson (3 January 1870 – 20 March 1946)

The Henry Handel Richardson Society

By Howard Coster – en:National Archives of Australia, Public Domain, Wikimedia

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