The novel was written in 1901 and it based on the life of Sybylla Melvin, a young girl born into outback Australia, living a typical life for someone of her social position. Things go downhill for her family when her father decides to move their family from their home to a sleepy little town called Possum Gully, where they descend into poverty, and her father turns to the bottle. Sybylla Melvin is not a typical young woman, she dreams and wants and needs things that are not within her reach. She is a source of ever increasing frustration to her mother, who eventually sends her to live with her grandmother and Aunt in Caddagat. The story gives us a glimpse of a young feminist, refusing to settle for a life that is designated to women of her time.
I enjoyed the book, I'm sure it was a very accurate refelction of life in the Australian outbook at the turn of the century. I'm not, however, sure that I entirely understood Sybylla. I understand that she is a feminist (even if that concept didn't exist back there), and I understand that she is struggling to find her own way in a world that doesn't really make sense to her, but sometimes her behaviour puzzled me to a point that I just didn't understand her. Her attitude at times didn't make sense to me. Essentially, her character remains a mystery to me.
If anyone has read this book and has their own opinion of what makes Sybylla Melvin tick, please leave a comment so that I can try and figure out what it is about her that I couldn't quite work out. Despite my personal puzzlement over the main character, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I recommend it to anyone looking for a good old fashioned Australian classic to read.