On Dearborn Street
UQP, $14.95, 219 pp
This novel raises more interesting questions about its author than about its characters and action.
The story, set in Chicago in 1913–14, is told by a well-to-do businessman, called Mr Cavarley, who sympathises with feminism and females, and sharply criticises men whose sexual and social life is corrupted by ‘the toy idea of WOMAN’. He falls in love with an independent-spirited secretary-editor, Sybyl Penelo (a name clearly suggesting some link with Sybylla Melvyn in My Brilliant Career, and with Miles Franklin herself, to whom in many ways Sybyl bears a close resemblance). Sybyl has radical doubts about whether she should ever get married, and though she likes Cavarley, she is also attracted to the younger, sillier, richer, but quite charming Bobby Hoyne. After Bobby’s convenient death in a car race, she draws closer to Cavarley and becomes engaged to him, though right to the end of the story it is not certain that she will actually marry him.