An Immoderate Reader – a snippet from Maurice Guest by Henry Handel Richardson

by |August 10, 2010

Mrs. Cayhill was a handsome woman, who led a comfortable, vegetable existence, and found it a task to rise from the plump sofa-cushion. Her pleasant features were slack, and in those moments of life which called for a sudden decision, they wore the helpless bewilderment of a woman who has never been required to think for herself. Her grasp on practical matters was rendered the more lax, too, by her being an immoderate reader, who fed on novels from morning till night, and slept with a page turned down beside her bed. She was for ever lost in the joys or sorrows of some fictitious person, and, in consequence, remained for the most part completely ignorant of what was going on around her. When she did happen to become conscious of her surroundings, she was callous, or merely indifferent, to them; for, compared with romance, life was dull and diffuse; it lacked the wilful simplicity, the exaggerative omissions, and forcible perspectives, which make up art: in other words, life demanded that unceasing work of selection and rejection, which it is the story-teller’s duty to Perform for his readers. All novels were fish to Mrs. Cayhill’s net; she lived in a world of intrigue and excitement, and, seated in her easy-chair by the sitting-room window, was generally as remote from her family as though she were in Timbuctoo.

Henry Handel Richardson – Maurice Guest

BBGuru:This little snippet was chosen because it gives nothing of the book away – apart from telling you straight away that Henry Handel Richardson is a genius (But you should already know that!)

Of all of the books I have read about love and its power I have never read anything as true to life, in all its beauty and horror, as Maurice Guest.

Maurice Guest is not novel, not something the reader can pick up or put down. Maurice Guest is the very experience of an overpowering love, something that will inhabit you for the time it takes to read and, perhaps, as in my experience, forever.

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

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