It’s 1913, and Lily’s comfortable middle-class Melbourne life is completely upended when she falls in love. As she sits in the hall of her private school, portraits of past headmistresses frowning at her, she realises the ‘glaring, unalterable fact’ that she is pregnant, the father a young stablehand called Bert. Her parents disown her: the first of many wrenching challenges she must face. She marries Bert and they have a few happy months together in rural Woodend, where their daughter is born. When the war starts, Bert volunteers and Lily is thrown very much on her own resources. After Bert returns home, Lily has to face the most momentous decision of her life.
Lily’s role as mother, musician, wife and lover, leads her to confront issues of patriarchy, nationalism, love… and the value of a human life.
In Jennifer Bryce’s ‘Australian Gothic’ novel, the suppressed grand passions of her long-suffering heroine are finally resolved in a way that is both shocking and completely natural.
— Irina Dunn, Director, Australian Writers’ Network
Original and compelling. A vivid sense of period; a breathtaking finale.
The Launch has happened!
The novel was launched by Toni Jordan (https://www.textpublishing.com.au/authors/tonijordan), in Melbourne (Victoria, Australia) at Readings Bookshop, Carlton, (309 Lygon Street) on Thursday 13th June.
Published by Rightword Enterprises, the novel is available from Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Lily-Campbells-Secret-Jennifer-Bryce-ebook/dp/B07QXM6HLX/ref=sr_1_4?keywords=JENNIFER+BRYCE&qid=1556328182&s=books&sr=1-4 ), Book Depository, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, (RRP $A25.00). Also, if you live in the Melbourne area, from Readings bookstores, Avenue Books, Jeffreys Books, Malvern, New Leaves (Woodend), Aesop’s Attic (Kyneton), and the Trading Post (Mount Macedon).
In case you need some encouragement to buy, here is the opening of the novel:
There was no escape. I would have to tell my parents. The glaring, unalterable fact wouldn’t go away. ‘Mother and Father, I’m in love …’, ‘Mother and Father, I’ve met a young man …’, ‘Mother and Father, I know you’ll find this difficult, but …’. Nothing seemed right. I was sitting on my favourite bench under the magnolia in the public gardens opposite the house where I’d lived for all of my seventeen years. I supposed Mother thought I’d gone to the gardens to read, but I couldn’t possibly concentrate on a book today. I looked across to our solid grey stone villa. The roses in their neat rows were coming into flower and our Chinese vegetable man was at the tradesmen’s entrance with his scales balanced over his shoulders. Shirley, our maid, was sweeping the verandah.
When I’d missed ‘the curse’ for a second time, I started going to the library after school, where I read Everyday Human Biology, over and over, desperately searching for some other explanation. But the book stated with stark authority that if, after menstruating regularly for a year or more, a woman misses more than two cycles, the reason is most likely that she is ‘gravid’. I looked up the meaning of the word and it meant ‘pregnant, with child’. I was as bad as Primrose Macfarlane, who had been expelled from school for a reason too terrible to divulge to us girls. She was called to the Head Mistress’s office, then later a prefect came and collected her things. We never saw Primrose again, but there were hushed whisperings and proclamations of self-righteous disapproval from girls who, days before, had been her friends. Now there might be whisperings about me – although fortunately school would finish for ever in a few weeks.
Earlier in the afternoon, out walking with Dorcas, I had seen a woman pushing a perambulator. In less than nine months’ time I would be pushing a perambulator. A baby was growing inside me – a baby that would be mine, and mine to care for. I’d never even held a baby and I’d certainly never imagined what it would be like to be a mother. Dorcas had urged me to tell my parents.
Tonight I was going to do it. Gripped with dread, I walked through the shadowy front gate, along the rose-lined gravel drive, up the stone steps, through the door and down the passage to the room where my execution would take place.
We took our places as usual at the long mahogany dining table: Mother, Father and I. The laughing cavalier in the painting gazed at me with his penetrating eyes; he knew what I’d done, he knew what would happen – he was laughing at me. The crystal, the silver, the harlequin cruet set were in place on the appliquéd table-cloth, and all this was scrutinised by an aloof audience of empty high-backed dining chairs placed around the walls, waiting.
We ate our soup in silence and Shirley cleared the bowls. I would do it while Shirley was out of the room. I wiped my mouth with my serviette and uttered the words I’d practised.
‘I’ve met a young man I would like to marry.’
‘Oh?’ said Father. ‘This is a very surprising turn of events. You keep pestering us about going to university. Now you want to marry …’
‘You are too young, Lillian, dear, you need to meet more young men to be sure that you find someone suitable.’ Mother straightened her back and toyed with her silverware.
‘I’ve met other young men at dances and … I’m sure …’
‘What school did he go to? How do we know that he’s the right young man for you?’
‘I don’t know, Mother …’
‘Oh? Where did you meet him?’
‘When I stayed with cousin Constance, I …’
‘Oh, well, Aunt Mildred would only allow a respectable young man …’
‘Yes Mother …’
‘We’re not expecting you to marry until after your twenty-first birthday, Lillian. You really are too young.’
The grandfather clock in the hall chimed the quarter hour. Shirley returned, wheeling in the roast for Father to carve. Father stood up and brandished the sharpening steel, holding his usual command over the meat. Maybe I could tell them tomorrow? I looked down at the table-cloth: what would Dorcas do? She would tell them now.
‘Mother, I love him … and …’
‘Love, dear. You may think it’s love, but you’re only seventeen. It’s probably just a passing fancy…’
‘I do love him, Mother and …’
‘Now, don’t be rash, Lillian dear …’
‘… he works in the stables at Aunt Mildred’s …’ The room began to spin. I couldn’t hear what Mother said next because my ears were humming, but she put her serviette down firmly on her side plate and stared at me. Say it now: ‘I think I’m expecting a baby!’
Father’s steel clattered onto the carving dish. A fly buzzed around the uncut meat. No one brushed it away. Mother made a spluttering sound then she was choking. Father bent towards me, lowering his voice, ‘Did I hear you correctly, Lillian? My daughter … with child?’
I could bear it no longer and ran to my room.
I flung myself onto my bed and wept into the pillow.
I don’t know how long I lay there, but after some time I could hear footsteps thumping down the passage, my door burst open, the ornaments on my mantelpiece rattled as Mother thundered in. She stood over me.
‘Lillian. Have you been with a young man?’
‘How could you? After all we have done for you …’
She shouted at me and I tried to block out what she said, but I took in ‘disgrace’ and ‘guttersnipe’. Then she stormed out. There was silence. Sometime later I heard her sobbing in the passage outside my room. I pulled the bedclothes right over my head.
More information from this website at: jenniferbryce.net/my-novel/