Text Publishing Company: 9/9/2014
eBook, 256 pages
In Certain Circles is the novel Elizabeth Harrower wrote after the release of The Watch Tower. The author withdrew this novel before publication in 1971, and it has languished in a library for four decades.
In Certain Circles is an intense psychological drama about family and love, tyranny, and freedom. Set amid the lush gardens and grand stone houses that line the north side of Sydney Harbour, it follows the lives of four unforgettable characters whose fates are intertwined.
In Certain Circles by Elizabeth Harrower is a recommended historical novel that is an examination of both character and social class.
In Certain Circles open right after WWII in Sydney, Australia and we meet the Howard family and the two Quayle siblings. The Howard's are a wealthy family who live in a large stone house on the north side of Sydney Harbor. Both parents are biologists and well known. Their son, Russel, has returned from the war and their 17 year old daughter, Zoe believes she deserves the praise written about her.
"She and Russell were greatly taken notice of. Russell was never affected by the propaganda, having a life of his own from the start; Zoe took attention and praise for granted, as though they were part of the public utilities, like running water and electricity. She was quite sated with the interest turned on her, but did not think it unjustified. World-weary as any international success, so confident that few opinions could move her, fearless, seventeen..."
Stephen and Anna Quayle have lived dramatically different lives. After the death of their parents they have been brought up in Parramatta by an uncle who is overly preoccupied with caring for his neurotic wife. Now Stephen, a born pessimist, is a salesman, something Russell doesn't judge, but Zoe finds incredulous. Anna is still living with her uncle but is sure to wind up being "one of those clerks, working to eat." However, since Stephen is not immediately taken with Zoe and doesn't find her unfailingly charming at all, Zoe finds herself attracted to him.
The novel is divided up into three parts. The first part is after WWII, when we are introduced to the characters (above), the second opens 8 years later, and the third part is in the 1960s.The attitudes of most of the female characters is that they will certainly give up their lives to support their husbands in any way they possible. I think In Certain Circles will appeal to those who enjoy period pieces and novels that deal with social class differences.
This is a novel that was written to be published in 1971, but was never released until now. Fans of Harrower's other novels will want to read In Certain Circles. While the writing is excellent and the characters basically well developed with discernment regarding their motives and behaviors, I was unable to fully immerse myself in this novel. Perhaps this is because I never connected with the characters at the start, at which point I found Stephen a complete jerk and the younger Zoe an over-privileged jerk.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of the Text Publishing Company for review purposes.