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Amy‘s Children, by Olga Masters.

June 17, 2014

Amy‘s Children, by Olga Masters.  Australia: Text Classics (2014), Paperback, 304 pages.


A warm, gritty novel set in Australia around World War II about a young mother who loves her children but also needs to earn money and have a life of her own.

Amy was married when she was seventeen. She was three months pregnant. Four years later her husband left her and the three daughters she had borne. When she returned to her parents, her mother thought she still looked no older than her four-year-old daughter. Leaving the girls in her mother’s care, Amy went to Sydney, found a job, and slowly made a life for herself. She thought about her girls and felt their loss, but, in later years, she was not prepared for first one and then another of them to join her in Sydney so they could attend high school. The tense dynamics between the mother and the daughters are at the heart of this excellent story. So is the community of working-class women in which Amy is embedded.

Olga Masters (1919-1986) was born on the southern coast of New South Wales. Married at 21, she raised seven children while working part-time as a journalist. She turned to writing fiction when in her fifties publishing several novels. Amy’s Children was released shortly after her death. Her writing reminds me of Ruth Park’s Harp of the South with its nonjudgmental treatment of women who have few options for themselves and their families and yet make do the best they can. We may not always like or approve their choices, but we respect their determination and enjoy reading about their lives.

Amy’s Children was originally published in 1987. It has recently been republished by Classical Text. It is certainly a book that merits a new group of readers. A brief biography of Masters and analysis of this book by Eva Hornung is included in this edition. I am grateful to the publisher for sending me an electronic version of this book.

I enthusiastically recommend Amy’s Children to Australian readers and to readers interested in motherhood and the tension between a mother’s responsibility to her children and to herself.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 17, 2014 6:29 pm

    Thanks for this review — I read the book not long after it came out and really enjoyed it, though my favourite Masters is Loving daughters. She was also a great short story writer. I think you are right to liken her to Ruth Park. There’s such warmth and generosity to her writing, as there is in Park. I’d love to read Hornung’s intro – what a shame I have a copy of the book!

    • June 19, 2014 4:14 pm

      I enjoyed it, too. Hornung’s introduction was nothing special, but I thought it interesting that she wrote it.

      • June 19, 2014 5:06 pm

        Thanks Marilyn … I won’t feel too destitute then! They gave chosen interesting people for their intros, and I’ve usually found them interesting.

  2. June 20, 2014 5:46 am

    Marilyn you’ve prompted me to read this! I’m adding it to my list for the next trip to the bookstore. I’m a bit embarrassed that I haven’t read enough Australian classics by women. Have you read Eva Hornung’s ‘Dog Boy’? It’s a really good book.

    • June 20, 2014 3:24 pm

      Good! I was able to find some of the classics by women on Gutenberg. No, I haven’t read Dog Boy, but it’s on my list of possibilities. Thanks for the encouragement.

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