My Brilliant Sister

Amy Brown

My Brilliant Sister
Simon & Schuster Australia
31 January 2024

My Brilliant Sister

Amy Brown

While Stella Miles Franklin took on the world, her beloved sister Linda led a short, domestic life as a wife, mother and sister. In a remarkable, genre-bending debut novel Amy Brown thrillingly reimagines those two lives - and her own - to explore and explode the contradictions embedded in brilliant careers and a woman's place in the world. Sliding Doors meets Wifedom.

Stella Miles Franklin's autobiographical novel My Brilliant Career launched one of the most famous names in Australian letters. Funny, bold, often biting about its characters, the novel and its young author had a lot in common. Miles went on to live a large, fiercely independent and bohemian life of travel, art and freedom.

Not so her beloved sister Linda. Quiet, contained, conventional, Linda was an inversion of Stella. A family peacemaker who married the man Stella would not, bore a son and died of pneumonia at 25.

In this reflective, witty and revealing novel, Amy Brown rescues Linda, setting her in counterpoint with Stella, and with the lives of two contemporary women: Ida, a writer whose writing life is on hold as she teaches and raises her young daughter; and Stella, a singer-songwriter who has sacrificed everything for a career, now forcibly put on hold. Binding the two is the novella that Linda might have written to her sister Stella - a brilliant alternative vision of My Brilliant Career.

Innovative and involving, My Brilliant Sister is an utterly convincing (and hilarious) portrait of Miles Franklin and a moving, nuanced exploration of the balance women still have to strike between careers and family lives. It gives a fresh take on one of Australia's most celebrated writers and an insight into life now.


Stella Miles Franklin. Literary hero, feminist trendsetter, trailblazer for Australian women to come – but what of her sister? Linda Franklin has remained largely unacknowledged in the whirlwind of Miles Franklin’s life, often relegated to the role of unassuming wife and mother in contrast to Stella as author and activist. But is Linda’s life all so undesirable – or even incomprehensible? This is the question Amy Brown seeks to explore.

Brown does this through three women’s stories. There is Ida, a writer and mother who has paused her writing while raising her daughter, who is rediscovering her desire for equal input from her husband in parenthood and marriage. Then Linda Franklin herself, writing a determined final word to her sister before she then dies at 25. And Stella, a singer–songwriter on a forced break from touring, reminiscing about what she has sacrificed for her fame. Brown, in a fascinating, disjointed way, examines the motivations pulling these women to and fro, as well as their regrets and new desires.

An element I personally enjoyed was that each sector, each glimpse of a woman’s life, may contain hardship, stagnation, or loneliness, but none end that way. These glimpses may not be enthusiastic, but they are gently hopeful. It is as if Brown is letting us know life won’t be perfect, but it will be okay.

The writing style is somewhat splintered, which occasionally means you lose Brown’s subject, with no chapters but instead subheadings. The stream-of-consciousness narration can be a little off kilter (perhaps the point) but often swings back to insightful. You are usually grounded back in the story within a page.

My Brilliant Sister is a love letter not just to Linda and Stella Franklin, but to women everywhere who find themselves caught by expectation, desire, or just the complicated position that is womanhood in the modern age.

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