Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Getting of Wisdom” as Want to Read:
The Getting of Wisdom
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Getting of Wisdom

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  1,227 ratings  ·  96 reviews
When Laura Rambotham arrives at an exclusive Melbourne girls school from her country home, she is ridiculed by the other pupils for her differences - her name, her unusual clothes and, especially, for her 'unpardonable sin': her exceptional musical ability. Laura endures ostracism and misery as she tries to make herself socially acceptable to her vicious peers, never quite ...more
Hardcover, Penguin Australian Classics, 296 pages
Published November 20th 2013 by Penguin (first published 1910)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Getting of Wisdom, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Getting of Wisdom

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.51  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,227 ratings  ·  96 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
PattyMacDotComma
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
...more
Fiona MacDonald
"Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding"

Although overall I found that this story went on rather longer than it needed, I was pleasantly surprised by the wit and prose of Henry Handel Richardson.
The story predominantly rests on Laura, a headstrong and imaginative child who is packed off to boarding school in Australia after her mother finds her too difficult to handle.
Here she meets a variety of girls from different backgrounds, some nice,
...more
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
...more
Kathleen
“Straightaway she set to work to sharpen her wits.”

I couldn’t help comparing this to Little Women, as if it was Amy March getting teased at school drawn out into a story of its own. There are stark differences, however. Richardson is being honest here. The way the girls act isn’t stereotypical; it’s detailed, and feels true. And this truth gives the story a subversive bent that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Here we see the young girl Laura becoming socially conscious and sexually aware. We see the rise a
...more
Michele
Jun 26, 2007 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.
Sonia
Dec 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Sylvester
Mar 10, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014, audio-book
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
Jane
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
...more
Karen ⊰✿
This is a classic coming-of-age story, but is based in a girls boarding school and demonstrates the "unwritten rules" of high school and how cruel kids in school can be
Timotei
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was disappointed by this book. Firstly, I thought it was something completely different for some reason. When I realised I had inadvertently stumbled upon a Melbourne period coming of age about a country girl learning about life in a city school, I was quite interested. Mainly because I love coming of age stories, but also because this was my first Australian novel written over a hundred years ago. But this excitement was soon dispelled.
There are a few good things about the work. The way it su
...more
Jane
Nov 12, 2009 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
...more
Melanie Stout
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's something completely timeless about a coming of age school story. The innocuous beginnings of fitting in, the challenges of growing up, the daunting task of facing life's expectations.

The Getting of Wisdom is a little different. Unlike Jane Eyre or even Amy March, Laura never quite fits in. She never loses her innate creativity. She doesn't fall prey to the path of teacher or wife that so many female protagonists of the mid to late 1800's do. She remains solely her own, she clutches her
...more
Kali Napier
Feb 05, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aww2019
While I can see how this is a classic of Australian literature, providing insights into upper middle class colonial life around the turn of the century, and in particular the experience of girlhood at a boarding school, it is really difficult to read historical contemporary novels that use racist terminology unconsciously. I guess because it is confronting what was such commonplace language at which no one would bat an eyelid. It makes me wonder if I prefer historical fiction because it gives a ...more
Kim
Apr 13, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: oz-genre-2019
Setting: Melbourne, Australia; 1880's. Laura Rambotham is sent to a prestigious Melbourne boarding school at the age of 12 - fatherless, poor and from a small country town, Laura is ill-equipped from the outset to survive in these hallowed surroundings and, bewildered by the strict unwritten code of behaviour favoured by her peers, struggles gamely to fit in, with results sometimes humorous but more often devastatingly sad for Laura. As the years progress, Laura learns how to deal with life and ...more
Ruby
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel-study
tolerable for a novel study. i'm surprised i was quite entertained by a rather simple plot, and the writing was very elegant, so kudos to the author.
Catsalive
blurb:
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
...more
N.
Jul 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5/5

Laura is immature and a daydreamer, but what she doesn't realize is that she's also poor and unaccustomed to the habits of people outside her own family. When she's sent to boarding school, she has a terrible time. Her clothing is sadly out-of-date, she is not aware of what's considered appropriate fodder for discussion and what's taboo, and she doesn't know how to treat her elders. She's also woefully behind in her schooling.

I think I liked The Getting of Wisdom mostly for its sense of ti
...more
Tessie
Oct 19, 2014 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
...more
Oanh
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 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
...more
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
...more
Gaby
Sep 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Alyce
Dec 03, 2015 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.
Sophie
Jul 30, 2011 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.
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'.
Jo
Dec 27, 2011 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.
Text Publishing
‘A gorgeous coming-of-age story that is both charming and deeply moving.’
Guardian
Lauren
Jan 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Classic coming of age type of story, about a poor, country girl going to a fancy all-girls boarding school in the city and having to figure out how to survive the social climate. I had to keep reminding myself that this was written in 1910. In a lot of ways it felt more like a modern subversion of the typical coming of age story.

Laura, the main character, starts out naive, thinking that she'll make friends quickly and that she'll naturally be able to take charge of situations the way she can at
...more
Geoff Wooldridge
This Australian classic, first published in 1910, has some historical literary significance, but overall, it left me a little flat.

It is said to be partly autobiographical, because, just like our heroine Laura Rambotham, the young Ethel Richardson was sent to an exclusive girls school in Melbourne from her home in the country. But Laura is apparently nothing like the author, and the events in the novel are mostly fictitious.

Laura lives in country Victoria where her mother ekes out a living doing
...more
« previous 1 3 4 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • My Brilliant Career
  • Power Without Glory
  • The Harp in the South
  • The Bodysurfers
  • Tirra Lirra by the River
  • We of the Never Never
  • Seven Little Australians (Woolcots, #1)
  • It's Raining in Mango
  • For the Term of His Natural Life
  • My Brother Jack
  • Careful He Might Hear You
  • The Shiralee
  • For Love Alone
  • I Can Jump Puddles
  • Coonardoo
  • Grand Days
  • Summer of the Seventeenth Doll
  • They're a Weird Mob
See similar books…
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
“After all, there was something rather pleasant in knowing that you were misunderstood. It made you feel different from everyone else.” 11 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
More quotes…