Monday, January 5, 2009

The Melbourne Trilogy

Life in the city of Melbourne between 1888 and 1900 is the background to a series of three novels by Marshall Browne - The Gilded Cage, The Burnt City and The Trumpeting Angel.

The 1880s saw a land boom in Marvellous Melbourne. Land speculation was rife and corruption reigned supreme in many quarters. A number of banks and other financial institutions were established with the promise that investing in these institutions was an opportunity to become rich. The reality was that the only people who made money, especially after the financial crash in 1889, were the directors who either withdrew their money before the institution went into liquidation or used a provision in the Companies legislation protecting their investments. As the directors were often also members of parliament it is not surprising that there was reluctance to change the legislation. Banks crashed. The smaller investors in particular lost their money. Unemployment was high and the wages of those employed were often reduced. Many families depended on welfare provided not by the government but by charities.

In the 1890s challenges to the political status quo were mounted. Attempts were made to alter legislation to remove the possibilities for corruption and women were campaigning for the vote. Federation was another major change about to be introduced. At the end of the century the Boer War was another area of concern.

Marshall Browne interweaves the action of his novels amongst the above events. The books follow the fortunes and misfortunes of several prominent families involved in commerce, the law and parliament as they strive to cope with the rapidly changing events occurring around them. The often melodramatic plots involve treachery, murder, jealousy, love, corruption, loyalty, misunderstanding and court cases as the protagonists face extreme challenges which could result in bankruptcy and / or loss of standing in their community.

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