In Certain Circles by Elizabeth Harrower

bookshelves: winter-20142015, radio-4, published-2014, newtome-author, sydney, australia

Read from February 13 to 26, 2015

Description: Internationally acclaimed Australian author Elizabeth Harrower’s novel was written in 1971 and is published for the first time now.

This tale of love, class and freedom, set set among the grand houses and lush gardens of Sydney Harbour just after WWII, follows the lives of Zoe and Russell Howard. Charismatic and confident, the children of affluent and loving parents, they welcome into their circle, Stephen and Anna, two orphans, whose lives until now have been very different from those of the Howards. But despite this, these four will spend the rest of their lives moving in and out of each other’s shadows.

‘Harrower evokes the waste and futility of a decadent class with all the bite and poignancy of F Scott Fitzgerald,’ Eimear McBride, New Statesman

Author: Elizabeth Harrower is regarded as one of Australia’s most important postwar writers, and is enjoying a recent literary revival. Born in Sydney in 1928, her first novel, Down in the City, was published in 1957 and was followed by The Long Prospect (1958) and The Catherine Wheel (1960). Her most well-known work, The Watch Tower, was published in 1966 to huge acclaim. Four years later she finished In Certain Circles , but withdrew it before publication for reasons she has never publicly spoken of. The manuscript was rediscovered recently by her publisher who felt it should be published immediately. Harrower has since received rave reviews, including comparisons with Emile Zola and F Scott Fitzgerald.
Reader: Penny Downie

1/10 ‘You only think of orphans in fairytales’: over a tennis match, the two orphans, Anna and Stephen, are welcomed into the rarified world of the Howard family.

2/10 ‘Just don’t develop a social conscience now’: Zoe struggles with her emotions when she discovers that Stephen is leaving.

3/10 ‘This is not my life’: Anna strikes out on her own, and finds a new life.

4/10 ‘He’s not easy’: after the death of her beloved mother, Zoe makes an unexpected choice.

5/10 ‘I’m marvellously happy’: the unlikely marriage between Zoe and Stephen continues to raise eyebrows.

6/10: ‘It was enough that he existed’: the bleakness of unrequited and of married love.

7/10 ‘No-one knows me’: while Anna remains defiantly single, Zoe regrets her own defiance in marrying Stephen.

8/10 ‘It harmed him’: Zoe realises that not everyone can bear to be loved.

9/10 ‘Something’s happened to Anna’: the devastating fallout from the arrival of an unexpected letter.

10/10 ‘You must solve yourself’: endings and new beginnings, as Anna and Zoe realise what love is.

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