Pioneers on Parade
with Dymphna Cusack 1939
"The fruit of a unique colaboration between two of Australia's best-known and best-loved writers - Miles Franklin, famed for sparkling works like My Brilliant Career, and Dymphna Cusack, co-author of Come in Spinner, Australia's great novel of World War Two - Pioneers on Parade was written at the time of the nation's sesquicentenary in 1938 and is set against the events of that year of celebration.
"Wry, witty and often satirically barbed, this lively novel centres on two families - the English Horsehunts, scions of the globe-trotting minor aristocracy out for an Antipodean jaunt, and the Australian Brankstons, proud of their freedom from the 'taint' of convict blood - and exposes the aspirations, pretensions and folly of members of the families as they become inextricably linked.
"With shrewd observation it relates the antics of the social-climbing Audrey du Mont-Brankston; the world-weary and resigned Lord Cravenburn; his daughter, the jaded, wilful nymphet, Lady Lucy; and the naive boy-from-the-bush William Brankston, who falls for the wiles of the little English rose. Other players in this comedy of manners are depicted with an engaging sympathy: the stalwart Aunt Lucy Brankston; Greg, the hardworking, idealistic doctor; and Prim Brankston, the social butterfly who gradually awakens to the false values of her life.
"Now illustrated in colour and black and white with advertisements and magazine covers that evoke the flavour of 1939, Pioneers on Parade, with its impish humour and steady irreverence for established beliefs and institutions, is as fresh and lively today as when it first appeared."
All the world knew that in 1938 Australia was to celebrate her Sesqui-centenary Anniversary, for the news had been gladly proclaimed in colourful posters by a variety of shipping companies and travel bureaux, as well as by the Australian Government. It was the world's loss if it was so preoccupied with fear of wars - present and imminent - with the veering amours of film notorieties, the correct attire for the Belvoir Hunt, international games tournaments and what not, as to overlook the announcement. Yes, Australia was to fling a party as far-flung as herself - in Sydney, that sardonic siren of the south - to which the world was bidden. The whole of Europe was invited to a radiant summer spot where peace reigned and must linger for some weeks longer while Europe already trembled with its gas-masks ready against explosion, and Asia - but why drag in Asia?
From the Angus and Robertson hardback edition, 1988.
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Last modified: March 21, 2001.