AMY'S CHILDREN by Olga Masters


Email this review


Australian Masters had three careers: first as a mother of seven, then as a journalist, and finally as a writer of fiction. Amy's Children was her fourth book, completed just before she died in 1986, and is the first to be published in the US. Amy Fowler is a farm girl who gets pregnant, married, and abandoned in short order--but not before she has produced three daughters. Rather easily, she leaves the children in her parents' care and heads to Depression-era Sydney to find work. Step by tiny step, she manages to make a life for herself, until her eldest daughter, Kathleen, is deposited on her with no more ceremony than she once wasted in abandoning the child. Wisely and dexterously, Masters avoids soap opera: Amy is not a successful woman threatened with ruin by the specter of her past. She's someone who has barely managed to rent and partially furnish a little house; and having her daughter to look after now means that she won't be able to buy curtains or new shoes. Yet there is a rough justice in this, as Amy's selfishness more than meets its match in Kathleen's. The women whose small lives are chronicled here might be described as protofeminists. They don't challenge patriarchal norms, but each is absorbed in making her own way in the world. Masters' orchestration of this theme is superb, though she diminishes its force by depicting all men as utterly useless. Amy's husband is a no-hoper, her father and uncle churls, her brothers and cousin simpletons. There is another cousin who is clever and sensitive but Masters kills him off, apparently so as not to sully the neatness of her world-view. Overall, though, this is an unusually sober and detailed look at the lives of believable people.

Pub Date: May 30th, 1988
Publisher: Norton