Yarn Spinners: A Story of Friendship, Politics and a Shared Commitment to a Distinctive Australian Literature, Woven Through the Letters of Dymphna Cusack, Florence James, Miles Franklin and Their Congenials

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Dymphna Cusack, Miles Franklin and Florence James come alive on these pages through their friendships, their aspirations, their passions and achievements, their disappointments, insecurities and triumphs. In Yarn Spinners Marilla North tells the tale of their personal and professional lives through their correspondence, meticulously curated, edited and woven together with subtle narrative links. Editing is too modest a word for what Marilla North has done in this trove of letters, artfully assembled from thousands she recovered in a labour extending over 12 years. She has topped and tailed and interwoven them, then filled the gaps with narrative and notes, and in the process created a unique literary form. As the story flows from one to the other, the effect is, as North hoped, like a novel with three unfailingly lively female characters. --Barry Oakley.

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About the author (2016)

Miles Franklin was born and reared on farms in remote parts of New South Wales. These early experiences of a family struggling against an inhospitable land served as the basis for her first and best-known novel, My Brilliant Career (1901). The story of Sybylla Melvyn and her fantastic adventures in colonial Australia was made into a successful film, which brought about a revival of interest in Franklin and her long-forgotten novel; the interest, however, has been directed more toward her feminism than her literary work. Immediately after My Brilliant Career, Franklin wrote My Career Goes Bung (1946), which follows Sybylla's experiences as a successful author. Both of these novels foretell Franklin's lifelong revolt against the roles open to women. Through her literary and feminist contacts after the success of My Brilliant Career, Franklin found work as a freelance writer in Sydney before going to the United States in 1905, where she remained for nine years. In Chicago, she engaged in social work and suffragist activity for the National Women's Trade Union League. In 1927, she returned permanently to Australia, where she continued to write. Under the pseudonym "Brent of Bin Bin," she published six novels depicting Australian bush life, but they were never particularly successful. It has been pointed out that by the 1930s Australian fiction was changing, taking up new topics and moving away from realistic accounts of colonial life. Franklin's tireless promotion of Australian writing through her criticism and active involvement in literary circles, along with her feminist activities, make her an important figure in Australian literature, even though much of her work is of more historical significance than literary. Following her death in 1954, the Miles Franklin Award for Fiction was instituted to be given to a novelist whose work authentically represents Australian life.

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