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The Getting of Wisdom (1910)

de Henry Handel Richardson

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Laura, a spirited and unconventional heroine, attempts to adapt herself to the discipline of school and the unrelenting judgements of her classmates. The freedom of her country childhood seems far behind, as she struggles for dignity and true friendship
  1. 00
    Middlemarch de George Eliot (thesmellofbooks)
    thesmellofbooks: The Getting of Wisdom is the rare sort of book that provokes deep self-reflection and a nudge in the direction of peace-making with self and life, and in this way brings to mind [[George Eliot]]'s [Middlemarch]. I am gobsmacked. The novel begins as an entertaining tale of a headstrong young Australian girl going to meet the world at boarding school. It gradually evolves into a subtle, simple, and stunningly real observation of the pressures of conformity and the intolerance of naïveté, which, when paired with a strong desire to be accepted, can lead to many and often rending responses in an imaginative young person. Yet it is not a tragedy. I am left moved, affectionate, a little worried about the future, and yet joyful at the intactness of the protagonist's resilient soul. Bravo, Ms Richardson.… (mais)
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This is a classic boarding school novel, but in contrast to the typical chronicle of boys’ hijinks, The Getting of Wisdom offers a feminine perspective. Laura Ramsbotham is from a modest Australian family, where her widowed mother earns a living as a seamstress. She has scrimped and saved to provide Laura with higher education, soLaura is shipped off to a girls’ boarding school when she’s about 11. Anyone who has been an 11-year-old girl knows how difficult it is to assimilate into established social groups, and Laura is no exception. The head of school and the teachers -- all women who should know better -- are of the “spare the rod and spoil the child” variety, and just expect everyone to get on with it, already. And of course Laura does, with some success but also pain and heartbreak.

The early chapters of this book are exceptionally well done, as you can’t help feeling sad for Laura and applauding even the tiniest positive happening. Laura eventually makes a couple friends, and then commits a huge blunder that is difficult for her to recover from. I felt the story lost some pacing after that and her last few years of school felt rushed. But the novel ends with an evocative metaphor that was, in fact, the perfect summing up of Laura’s school experience. ( )
  lauralkeet | Jan 11, 2022 |
I don’t know a great deal about Ethel Richardson – who adopted a male pseudonym when she wrote – but I do know that this story, the story of an Australian girl sent to boarding school, is said to be autobiographical, and, if that is the case, I suspect that I would like her very much.

The book dates from 1910, but the story that it tells could easily have happened years earlier or years later.

I loved twelve- year old Laura Rambotham. At home she was a benevolent queen, ruling over her younger siblings, leading them in wonderful games, enchanting them with lovely stories; while her widowed mother worked had as a needlewoman to support her children, and give them the education that they needed to get on in the world,

Of course her mother sent Laura to school, of course Laura was not happy about it, and of course neither could quite see the other’s point of view.

Miss Richardson began her story beautifully, illuminating her characters and their situations with both clarity and subtlety.

I had high hopes for the school story that was to come.

Laura struggled to fit in with her school-mate. They were from the town, and she was from a rural backwater. They were from wealthy families, she was the daughter of a widow with aspirations …. but Laura was set apart by more that that.

She was artistic she was creative. She couldn’t understand that no one shared her appreciation of the writing of Sir Walter Scott, that no one appreciated the descriptions of the English countryside that she had to share. And nobody could really explain to her satisfaction why it was necessary to be able to be able to pinpoint English towns on a map, or to learn the foreign policy of Oliver Cromwell.

And Laura never really learned to compromise, to learn from her mistakes, to do what she needed to do to get by.

She did try to fit in, and often she did, but there were slips. She lost standing when it became known that her mother had to work to support her family. She lavishly embroidered her account of a day out to make a good story, but when the truth came out she was accused of deception and sent to Coventry.

But I had to love Laura. Her letter’s home were a riot. I loved that she delighted the invitations to tea that the other girls dreaded, because it gave her a chance to examine new bookshelves, and that made the fear of being called on to recite or perform fade into insignificance. I loved her joy when an older girl look her under her wing; and her outrage when she found that she had a young man.

Miss Richardson brought the school, and a wonderful cast of girls around Laura to life. It was very easy to believe in the time and the place and the story.

There was just one wrong note at the very end of the story. Laura did something I wished she hadn’t, she wasn’t called to account for it, and she should have been. Maybe it was something she would have to live with, maybe there was to have been another story. But there wasn’t.

This story ends as Laura leaves school, still not sure what her future might be, what it could be, what she wants it to be.

It makes the point quite clearly that education offered nothing to the creative and the artistic.

But it lacked structure – it was difficult to know how much time was passing – and it lacked a sense of purpose. There was no real journey, for Laura, no real lesson learned.

Maybe that was the point ….

Certainly this was a very fine school story, and an engaging and believable tale of one girl’s life at school. ( )
  BeyondEdenRock | Nov 3, 2021 |
This book was mentioned in Dictionary of Lost Words and I took the hint.
Published in 1910 it tells the semi-autobiographical story of a girl from rural Australia going to boarding school in Melbourne, and her growing maturity in thought and action.
The writing is good, and the lead character is very 'alive', making the whole thing an enjoyable experience.
More than 100 years old now, I was taken by both how much the world had changed, and how so many things were much the same. Thought provoking. ( )
  mbmackay | Jun 29, 2021 |
Laura is a country girl whose ambitious single mother saves up the money she makes from embroidery and sends Laura to a snobby private girls' school in Melbourne. Laura is something of a diamond in the rough - intellectually curious and vivacious, but wild and untamed. The wisdom she attains at school hinges mostly on gaining emotional intelligence, as she learns to navigate the hierarchies of schoolgirl life.

Henry Handel Richardson is, of course, the pen-name of Ethel Richardson, one of Australia's great canonical novelists. Based on her own experiences at Presbyterian Ladies College (PLC), The Getting of Wisdom was her second novel, and what a novel it is. Laura is not always likable, but she is always engaging, and her thirst for knowledge and acceptance are immediately relatable qualities. I particularly loved her discovery of Ibsen's A Doll's House, although there were other wonderful references - the amusing mistake she makes in thinking that Dante wrote Faust, or her fervently wishing the Oliver Cromwell never existed so she could get out of a particularly difficult history test.

It is particularly extraordinary to think that The Getting of Wisdom was published in 1910, before the two World Wars, before the flowering of modernism, indeed, before all the vastly traumatic history of the twentieth century, and yet it still rings with a freshness and insight that feels authentic more than a hundred years later. ( )
  vernaye | May 23, 2020 |
This Virago Modern Classic is about a twelve-year old girl sent to boarding school from her home in the country where she lived with her Mom and sister and two brothers. The title is a bit of an oxymoron in that boarding school doesn't teach her to be wise at all, but to fit in. Kind of sad. ( )
1 vote LisaMorr | Jul 8, 2016 |
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Nome do autorFunçãoTipo de autorObra?Status
Henry Handel Richardsonautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Eyre, JustineNarradorautor principalalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Ackland, MichaelIntroduçãoautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Greer, GermaineIntroduçãoautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Greer, GermaineIntroduçãoautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Probyn, CliveEditorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Steele, BruceEditorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.
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Laura, a spirited and unconventional heroine, attempts to adapt herself to the discipline of school and the unrelenting judgements of her classmates. The freedom of her country childhood seems far behind, as she struggles for dignity and true friendship

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