Allen & Unwin, $21.95 pb, 304 pp
Several years ago, I was privy to a breakfast conversation with one of our venerable literary critics, in which he lamented the proliferation of novels in Australia by young women. Of particular concern, he announced, was the tendency of said young women to construct ‘itsy-bitsy sentences from itsy-bitsy words’. And he smiled around the table warmly, secure in venerable male polysyllabic verbosity. As a young woman myself of vague literary urges, I felt thoroughly rebuffed. The only words I could think to form were both too itsy-bitsy and obscene to constitute effective rebuttal, and they remained unsaid.
The above quotation speaks to a number of things, and scarcely needs to be addressed, but is of passing anthropological interest. Young woman and venerable elder alike, the human being is a patternseeking creature, and, upon receiving two books by two young women novelists, my inclination was to do just this. Sibyl’s Cave is Catherine Padmore’s first novel, and was shortlisted for The Australian/Vogel Award (2001); Charlotte Wood’s The Submerged Cathedral follows her acclaimed Pieces of a Girl (2000).