In Certain Circles, Elizabeth Harrower's fifth and final novel, explores a series of relationships across two very different social worlds in the glitteringly beautiful Sydney from the post-war period through to the late sixties. Zoe and Russell are the privileged offspring of benign parents.
In a three-act psychological domestic drama, they encounter the orphaned and emotionally abandoned siblings Stephen and Anna. The narrative offers the promise of a love story but leads subtly to the conclusion that one can be reconciled rather than defeated by failure.
The central character Zoe, naively fuelled by the optimism of her class and with the benefit of beauty and talent, will learn the lesson that these attributes are not sufficient to prevail against the dark complexities she encounters in an increasingly unhappy and bitter marriage. In the clash between hope and cynicism, between privilege and disadvantage, these characters' limitations are revealed.
The dynamic between parents and children, siblings, married couples and lovers are explored by Harrower in a spare and economical prose style. In the era of amateur psychologising and self-indulgent introspection, much in the novel is refreshingly left unsaid.