Reprint: Book Review. Miss Zora Cross

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When Mr. Roy Bridges startled "The Times" into reviewing his "Vale of Tyre" at great length, Australian reviewers took heart of grace, realising that a notable novel, written in Australia and published in London was a possibility. When, more recently, Mr. Dale Collins published the most enthralling story of adventure at sea since "Treasure Island," it became possible to claim a great novelist for Australia. Ever since, one picks up a novel by an Australian author with a sense of pleasurable anticipation which is quite illogical and quite often unjustified. In a population of less than six millions, carrying, perhaps, a larger proportion suffering from cacoethes scribendi than is usual in older countries, it is absurd to expect a very large number or a very high percentage of literary successes. We have, considering population, an amazing number of better than average versifiers and minor poets; we have two or three really good novelists. That is a literary record of which a young and sparsely populated country may well be proud. Yet a reviewer may perhaps be forgiven for deploring the publication of second and third rate novels by Australians, as tending to lower a standard set proudly high by Australia's literary pioneers.

Perilously close to this category of second-rate Australian novels falls unhappily, the latest effort of Miss Zora Cross. With every desire to be sympathetic and encouraging toward an author who has written much good and almost good verse, it is impossible to write enthusiastically of this novel, "The Lute Girl of Rainyvale." Its central theme is Art (with a large capital), yet one of the characters is made to say of an early Lindsay drawing "Has anyone in Australia such an art treasure? Has anyone in this world? I like to think not." London, which recently saw and passed judgment upon a representative Lindsay collection, is likely to smile indulgently at such naive hero-worship as that. Furthermore, London (assuming that London reads "The Lute Girl of Rainyvale") will draw from these pages a strange picture of Australia as a whole and Queensland in particular. Many of the characters are Chinese; educated Chinese, who are made to fit with an appearance of complete naturalness into an Australian background. A stranger would be likely to receive the impression that wealthy Chinese of collecting habits and sauve manners were a normal feature of the Australian landscape. Throughout Miss Cross shows a knowledge of many highly interesting chapters of Chinese mythology, and for this reason alone many readers will find a curious charm in the book.

"The Lute Girl of Rainyvale," by Zora Cross. Hutchinson's, London. 7s. 6d. From Albert's, Ltd.

First published in The Western Mail, 6 August 1925

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on June 6, 2012 8:52 AM.

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