Posted by: Lisa Hill | August 3, 2013

Sensational Snippets: The Home Girls, by Olga Masters

The Home Girls (Text Classics)The Home Girls (UQP)Olga Masters (1919-1986) was a late bloomer who began her career at 63 and died just six short years later.  As Geordie Williamson says in the introduction to this collection of short stories, she began writing long before that, but her reputation rests on the body of work which begins with The Home Girls in 1982 and concludes with the unfinished collection called The Rose Fancier published posthumously in 1988.   She wrote just two novels, Loving Daughters (1984) and Amy’s Children (1987) (see my review) and also a series of connected short stories published as A Long Time Dying in 1985.

The Years That Made Us, a recent ABC TV documentary by her son Chris Masters, featured film of Olga Masters, and that reminded me how much I admire her writing.  The way she captures the inner world of women is superb.  This Sensational Snippet comes from a story called ‘The Done Thing’ in The Home Girls.   

Confronted by the return of her husband’s ex-fiancé to the small town where they live, Louisa is reluctantly preparing to make an obligatory visit to welcome the couple:

It was a couple of days after that during breakfast she said they should go and visit Annie and Peter.
‘What is their name?’ she said.
‘Pomfrey,’ he said and she wondered briefly how he found out.
‘Did you know him at all?’ Louisa asked.
‘No,’ he said.
‘Well, we should go and visit them,’ she said.
‘Do you read all these things in books?’ he asked.
‘People know by instinct what to do,’ she said and felt she almost disliked him.
‘We were here first and they have come and don’t know anyone,’ she said after a little silence.
‘We call on them and take something.’
Her eyes strayed to her kitchen shelves lined with bottles of preserves, deciding whether to take her peaches which were the more successful or her apricots which she could have cooked a little longer.
She put the apricots with four tomatoes in varying shades of ripeness into a basket the next afternoon which was a Saturday.  Then she added a loaf of her bread changing it for a larger one, and then a smaller one and finally going back to the one she chose first.  (p. 80-81, Text Classics edition)

I have my own copy of The Home Girls, published by UQP in 1982 but I borrowed the Text Classics edition from the library because I wanted to read the introduction by Geordie Williamson.  I was particularly taken with this summation of her craft:

[Masters’] short stories and novels suggest that passion or violence need not be external, a matter of the public or political, but may be internalised instead –  lodged deep within the human heart.  Her fictions seem so humble in conception, so soothing in domestic scope, that their ferocity comes as a shock.  The classical order of Masters’ literary forms and the tidy language she employs don’t disguise the potential for anarchy in ordinary life. (p. ix)

Just so…


Fishpond: The Home Girls (Text Classics)


  1. […] is a series of connected short stories, and I have her 1982 collection titled The Home Girls (see a Sensational Snippet here) so I shall have to be content with […]


  2. […] I was pleased to see that I wasn’t alone in finding much satisfaction in this collection of stories. There is an excellent review by Lisa Hill here. […]


  3. […] see my review) for me in an Op Shop, and I found The Home Girls at Brotherhood Books (Update: see a Sensational Snippet).  This is the one, Williamson tells me that was Masters’ first book, published when she was […]


  4. […] see my review) for me in an Op Shop, and I found The Home Girls at Brotherhood Books (Update: see a Sensational Snippet).  This is the one, Williamson tells me that was Masters’ first book, published when she was […]


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