Sunday, June 28, 2009

Seven Little Australians - a semi-forgotten classic?

I've recently been re-reading Ethel Turner's Australian classic, Seven Little Australians. I had almost forgotten how good it was/is! 

First published in 1894, and set in late-19th-century Sydney, Seven Little Australians recounts the adventures and mishaps of the seven Woolcot children, ranging in age from 16 to 0. Their father, Captain Woolcot, is a stern, authoritarian parent who really doesn't understand his children at all. The step-mother, Esther, is barely 20 and is scarcely any older than the oldest child. The children's mother died several years before the story takes place. 

The seven children get into all sorts of mischief. - This was one of the first childrens books to portray children in a realistic, wholly unsentimental way. 

Seven Little Australians was a bestseller in Australia and overseas when it was first published, and I don't think it's ever been out of print since. However, it doesn't seem to be as widely read now as it was 50 - or 100 - years ago. Amongst homeschooling and/or bookwormish families it remains quite a favourite, but in general, not many children - or adults - seem to be reading it. I don't know, maybe it's just me. . .

From the 1973 TV adaptation of Seven Little Australians

Anyways, if you enjoyed Little Women or Anne of Green Gables, I highly recommend that you give SLA a look. Ethel Turner's writing style is similar to Louisa May Alcott's, only less sentimental. Unlike Alcott, Turner does not deliberately set out to build a moral into each chapter, which is refreshing, in a way.

Ethel Turner wrote two sequels to Seven Little Australians - The Family at Misrule and Little Mother Meg, both of which are very good, and both of which are unfortunately currently out of print.

1973 adaptation

There was a miniseries made of Seven Little Australians in the '70s, which was fairly good, though it deviated from the novel in some points. You can watch a couple of clips from the series here.

Current Mood: Pensive


Aurora said...

I read this several years ago, I didn't realize at first that it was the same book since I only knew the Swedish title of it. But I checked, it is the same. I read the two following books as well.
It was quite some time ago, but as I remember it I really liked them! But it did have some very sad parts in it...

Enbrethiliel said...


It sounds good! Thanks for the recommendation. =)

Autumn said...

Dear Elise.
I really don't like it.I hate how the father seems not to love his children and its so tragic and sad .I guess I just don't like tragidies.
I noticed on The Inkworld that you haven't seen The Pricess Bride. That's tragic too.
It's one of my favorite movies.

The Editrix said...

Aurora, I'm glad you enjoyed them! I didn't know they'd been translated into Swedish! (?)

Autumn - that's fair enough. It does have some very sad parts in it - I was so shocked by the ending the first time I read it!

I seriously need to watch the Princess Bride. . .

Anonymous said...

Hi Elise
I have almost finished reading the book

I reckon it is a pretty good book
apart from the fact that Judy dies

From n

The Editrix said...

I know, it's so sad! :-( But I'm very glad you're enjoying the book!