The Ladies of Missalonghi
is a short novel by Australian
writer Colleen McCullough
commissioned for the Hutchinson Novellas
series and published in the United States
in the Harper Short Novel
series in 1987
. Set in the small town of Byron in the Blue Mountains
of Australia in the years just before World War I
, the novel is the story of Missy Wright and the Hurlingford family.
In the years before World War I in Byron, Australia, the males of the Hurlingford family hold all the power and money. Those Hurlingford women without a man due to spinsterhood or widowhood lead cramped lives of hard work and little money on scraps of land or in businesses that just barely support them.
Thirty-something spinster Missy Wright leads a narrow existence on the wrong side of the tracks with her widowed mother Drusilla Hurlingford Wright and crippled aunt Octavia when Byron is consumed by two events, the upcoming wedding of Missy's beautiful, Amazonian cousin Alicia Marshall to William Hurlingford and the arrival of rough looking stranger named John Smith.
With limited funds and suffering bouts of ill health, Missy's only consolation are her trips to the lending library where her distant cousin Una Hurlingford works. Una, a society beauty, has been sent to the backwater of Byron from her glamorous life in Sydney. Under Una's tutelage and bolstered by the romantic novels she sneaks home, Missy begins to dream of the world outside Byron and a better life for herself.
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