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The Getting of Wisdom

3.50  ·  Rating Details  ·  839 Ratings  ·  56 Reviews
Henry Handel Richardson's The Getting of Wisdom is the coming-of-age story of a spontaneous heroine who finds herself ensconced in the rigidity of a turn-of-the-century boarding school. The clever and highly imaginative Laura has difficulty fitting in with her wealthy classmates and begins to compromise her ideals in her search for popularity and acceptance.
Paperback, Popular Penguins, 264 pages
Published June 29th 2009 by Penguin Group (Australia) (first published 1910)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,577)
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Stef Rozitis
As I was reading the enchanting misadventures of the loveable (and irritating) scapegrace Laura I kept being struck with the impossibility of a male author having not only chosen this topic, but written such a sensitive account of a girl's attempts to relate to other girls in a female dominated setting (Bechdel test registers off the charts) so I googled "him". Yes...well...

The writing is great, there is an edge to it so that no matter how Laura goes from failure to failure- overimaginative, imp
I was not in the mood for this period piece, but it is such a good depiction of the times that it’s hard not to appreciate it. Laura is a feisty little girl, eldest daughter of a widowed mother who sews and embroiders to keep the family together and to send Laura to boarding school in Melbourne in the late 19th century.

The style and language may well appeal to lovers of Jane Austen and similar literature, but it’s not my first choice. She arrives at school, thinking she’s bright.

”These early wee
Feb 08, 2013 Sonia rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Laura is sent to a private girls' school in Melbourne for her education. Her mother is adamant that this will happen even though they struggle financially. She believes it is the best way:

"To a State school, I've always said it, my children shall never go - not if I have to beg the money to send them elsewhere."

The Getting of Wisdom was published in 1910 and we still have this kind of conversation about private versus public education today.

Laura is thrown in with the lions immediately, her Cous
Jul 19, 2007 Michele rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have had this book on my shelves for years.I am an inveterate purchaser of books and to my shame it can take me a long time to get around to doing the required reading.In this case the effort was not misplaced.
I always find it amazing that despite the sophistications of the modern age we still have the same underlying emotions as generations before us.
Hilarious and subversive. Laura's character and morals are corrupted as she struggles (and fails) to become what society expects from her.

I love HG Wells' description of Laura as 'an adorable little beast'. Though she is more a series of young girls, each focussing on a particular girlish folly (falling insanely in love with your roomate, lying to make people like you, being ashamed of your family...), than a real person, Laura's character is charming and horribly likeable.

The Getting of Wisdo
Apr 14, 2014 Sylvester rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-book, 2014
I have a hard time believing this was written by a man. Come on! H.H. Richardson has to be a pseudonym! Really amazing insight into a young girl's struggles to fit in - something I could relate to so closely in parts...I was very impressed with the author's grasp of the cruelty in female relationships. For anyone who grew up too poor to be fashionable, or who had parents too loud, or was embarrassingly back-country for the school sophisticates - this book will seem like it's about you. I was ama ...more
The subject of this book is a young woman: an awkward, insecure, restless and 'knowing' child who learns that self-realisation depends on rebellion and escape, but that the latter will first demand at least the semblance of conformity. In telling lies, Laura learns both the astonishing allure of fiction and the social costs of stepping beyond the bounds of propriety, gender, class, and family ties.

The novel is only in part a fictionalised account of Richardson's school years at the Presbyt
Aug 17, 2014 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don’t know a great deal about Ethel Richardson – who adopted a male pseudonym when she wrote – but I do know that this story, the story of an Australian girl sent to boarding school, is said to be autobiographical, and, if that is the case, I suspect that I would like her very much.

The book dates from 1910, but the story that it tells could easily have happened years earlier or years later.

I loved twelve- year old Laura Rambotham. At home she was a benevolent queen, ruling over her younger sib
I want to compare this to Bilgewater by Jane Gardam because both are coming of age stories of young women in boarding schools. But it would be unfair to both authors and stories to do so. B had a protagonist confident in her intelligence, blooming in beauty unknown to her and pained by the cruelties of life in school when you're different, and she makes no attempt to conform. Conversely, Laura is not confident in anything and desperate to be liked. You already know she fails, and spectacularly t ...more
Laura Rittenhouse
Apr 07, 2013 Laura Rittenhouse rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great coming of age book. Laura, our heroine, is sent off to boarding school in Melbourne in the early 1900s. Her family has little money and her peers all seem rich and glamorous. Laura finds herself struggling to fit in and weaves a web of lies to gain status. She's too smart and too ambitious to ever be perfectly comfortable either in or out of the cliques in her school.

As much as a coming of age story, this is a book about fitting in, our desire to belong and what lengths we shoul
Margaret Sharp
Despite its being published more than a hundred years ago, the central theme of this book: that of the effects of peer pressure: is still very relevant in today's society.
Essentially, this is a compelling volume about an intelligent, sensitive girl's initiation into a society populated by self-seeking, egotistic individuals.
Laura, a country girl, is sent to a boarding where (social) class consciousness is of paramount significance. Her own temperament and upbringing make her a target. Ultimately
This was my introduction to one of Australia's best writers and I was impressed. This coming of age story is semi-autobiographical and we learn where Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson developed her feminist leanings and her desire to write. This is also unquestionably a character study, which I guess all coming of age stories are, but in this book the only fully developed character is young Laura Rambothom whom we meet at age twelve as she leaves home for an exclusive girls' boarding school in ...more
Jan 31, 2016 Jess rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So The Getting of Wisdom has been sitting on my bookshelf for many months now and I finally got around to reading it. It has been described as a ‘coming of age’ story written by an Australian author, Henry Handel Richardson (the pen name for Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson) and first published in 1910.

Set in Australia in around Melbourne, the story follows that of the bright, imaginative, young Laura Tweedle Rambotham as she is sent off to boarding school. Here she quickly discovers that thin
Oct 19, 2014 Tessie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I adore this story!

I first read it as a teenager and a lot of it went over my head, and I can understand how the writing style might not grab the attention of teens. However over the last 40 years I've returned to it many times and I often notice new things in the story - like how subtly comic it is for instance. Or the way the style of speech changes according to who is talking, and reflects the different characters. The speech used by the private schoolboy cousin of Tilly is really amusing fo
Sep 23, 2013 Gaby rated it it was amazing
Shelves: on-shelf, favorites
Picked up this book after seeing the authors portrait at the Portrait Gallery in Canberra. I am so glad that I did! Despite being written 100 years ago, the themes are not dissimilar to what teen girls experience today - excepting the more delightful vocabulary. This book was funny yet also quite brutal. I will definitely re-read this one.

Visit 'Time to Read' for the full review
Lucy Adlard
Feb 08, 2013 Lucy Adlard rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Never, ever, read this. Even though it is old, sure, that's great but it bored me to tears. I only kept reading because it was for school and I would get in trouble if i didn't finish it. It is pages and pages of descriptive language and boring past tales. Nothing exciting. Pretty much a boring recollection of a girls life in school. Don't put your self through it! Me and my friend actually nicknamed it the getting of boredom.... Well that's my opinion!
Ilyhana Kennedy
I read this century-old classic more as an exercise in history than reading pleasure, and it certainly offered little pleasure. It's hard work.
As a study of the schooling of an adolescent girl around the turn of the 19th/20th century, it reveals much about gender expectations and the competitive cruelty of young girls. The former may have changed but the latter is as strong as ever especially with the advent of social media and cyber-bullying.
The language of the book is as stiff and stilted as i
Perseus Q
I really enjoyed this one. I suspect it helps being an Australian, even more so a Victorian, and even more so a Victorian who has lived in Melbourne and the country because when she describes the house in Chiltern and the blue gum down the side, the streets of Prahran, the walk between South Yarra and Collins Street, and the sands of Portsea, I could see and smell it all, even though it was written and set at the turn of the last century.

It's a coming of age story, loaded with cliché. The (relat
Dec 12, 2015 Alyce rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
i wasn't quite sure what the point of this book was when i finished it. What was i meant to take away from it? it was broken into episodic events, which is fine, but it had no clear line through. I also didn't like Laura. I thought she was meant to be kind of bratty at the start, but she never really changes.
was expecting more from it.
Jul 30, 2011 Sophie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic
Laura Tweedle Rambotham deserves to be recognised - alongside Vernon Gregory Little, Holden Caulfield, and even (arguably) A Clockwork Orange's Alex - as one of the most important voices of the brutal and difficult journey of young adulthood. Highly recommended and, again, would make a great selection for a paired text study.
Yvette Adams
I'm really surprised so many people have given this book such a good review and rating. I didn't like it at all! None of the characters were at all likeable. The main character didn't become any more likeable as the book ended. Did she ever gain any wisdom? If she did, I couldn't tell!

I don't recommend this at all.
Lizzie Friendship
written in 1910 and set in australia, this novel clearly demonstrates that 'teenage angst' is not just for the 21st century generation! unable to put it down, i read the book in a day. richardson's own life situation is clearly evident which means that her writing is from 'the heart'.
Jan 15, 2012 Jo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An enjoyable read, and a good way to learn about some parts of Australian society around the turn of the twentieth century, but without a lot of depth for a modern reader.
Nov 26, 2014 Robyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminist
An incisive look at the ways people are socialised (particularly during adolescence) and the tension between conformity and nonconformity. Dripping with casual irony and poignant social commentary, I fear the true cleverness of this book will not be appreciated by many. Nevertheless, the story is intriguing and funny and delightful and awkward… so it’s worth reading even if the above doesn't appeal to you.
Recommend for: Adult females wanting to reflect on their own adolescent journey; People wan
Gillian Ray-barruel
I can't make up my mind about this book. I enjoyed reading it, but I expected a different kind of book. Most bildungsroman have the protagonist learning from their experiences and maturing in time to become wiser, kinder, more balanced, etc. Here, Laura Rambotham goes through some traumatic experiences at boarding school, but she continues to make mistakes and never seems to learn much. The only thing she really gains at the end of the novel is her freedom from boarding school. But as a poor wom ...more
Karen Beath
First published in 1910, The Getting of Wisdom is the coming-of-age story of Laura Rambotham, a 12-year-old country girl who is sent to an exclusive girls boarding school in Melbourne by her widowed mother, who scrimps and saves to afford to give her daughter a good education.

Laura is a willful and creative child who struggles to fit in amongst her peers. She so desperately wants to be accepted yet is often ridiculed and ignored by her classmates and teachers. She continues to try and so often f
Feb 19, 2016 Jyv rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, australia
Disappointing. It's on the list of best Australian books to read, which is why I picked it up. It started off like "Seven Little Australians" with regard to the naughty child being sent to boarding school (which is a much more enjoyable book, by the way). I found Laura annoying (I found every single character annoying), and I didn't see any evidence of her supposedly "getting wisdom". The language was, at times, awkward. I really didn't see the point of the story. The ending seemed rushed and it ...more
Hazel Key
The ending may have been a bit lack-lustre, but this book was well worth reading for its study of what happens to the psyche of a girl entering puberty when thrust into the harsh, alien environment of a boarding school.

Wilful, creative, intelligent yet impulsive Laura, the eldest child who dominated and yet was admired by her siblings, suddenly finds herself younger, less experienced and, to her peers, severely lacking in many respects.

She gradually, through a series of painful experiences and i
Jul 03, 2015 Zoe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An amusing story about a young girl moving from the bush to attend boarding school in Melbourne in the early 1900s. Laura struggles to fit in with the conservative and conformist group she finds at the school, and this is her most outstanding feature.
Portia Andrew
I studied this book for Grade 7 English, many many years ago. It was not my favourite book then, and still leaves me unsure. It certainly evokes the painfulness of adolescence.
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Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson's use of a pen-name, adopted for mixed motives, probably militated against recognition especially when feminist literary history began. Maurice Guest was highly praised in Germany when it first appeared in translation in 1912, but received a bad press in England, though it influenced other novelists. The publishers bowdlerized the language for the second imprint. ...more
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“After all, there was something rather pleasant in knowing that you were misunderstood. It made you feel different from everyone else.” 4 likes
“Laura began to model herself more and more on those around her; to grasp that the unpardonable sin is to vary from the common mould.” 2 likes
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