Come in Spinner

Published by Harper Collins

Teaching notes
Dr Neil E. Béchervaise


‘Come in Spinner’ is strongly reminiscent of John Steinbeck’s ‘Grapes of Wrath’. It is an intensely didactic novel covering a complex and largely under-researched period in Australian social history from a unique yet significant point of view. As such it is a work of literature in the style demanded by Miles Franklin [see introduction p. vii] but rejected by its only obviously reading character, Thelma. It is equally an essay into the political and historical issues framing women’s lives through the period. The essays in sociology are far better integrated than in Steinbeck’s work and they can be supported with films such as ‘Caddie’, or even ‘Squizzy’.

The significance and extent of the 1930s depression [which didn’t really end until the 1950s] in shaping the lives, attitudes and ambitions of the central characters is brutally obvious and the thematic demands of the novel are clearly contextualised against this background.

Pre-reading activities

Working in small groups, brainstorm what you know about the effect of the depression of the 1930s on people’s attitudes to the government and to the war that followed. Record your brainstorm as a mind-map for the whole group to explore and add to.

Research the role of women in society during the second world war in England, Australia and Russia. Identify the major differences and suggest why these might have occurred.

Use your mind maps and research findings to discuss ways in which women’s pre-war experience in Australia would have affected their attitudes to their roles during the war.

The Story

Guinea, Deb and Val work for Claire in the Marie Antoinette beauty salon of Sydney’s luxurious Hotel South Pacific during the latter years of the second world war. Their lives and loves are linked with the pressures of the period. Against a background of restricted job mobility, black marketeering, American troops with too much money, an apparently idle landed gentry and bitter memories of the depression, the women strive to achieve their ambitions while remaining true to their beliefs.

Claire’s high stakes gambling, the enforced prostitution of Guinea’s sister and the fatal abortion of a young servicewoman pregnant to a married soldier focus the novel towards the social and political issues of the period. The actions of the lesser characters maintain a level of humour that informs the essential humanity of the novel, lifting it from the pessimism of the depression years and the immediate tragedy and dislocation of the war.

‘Come In, Spinner’ draws its readers into a rich and complex world where accepted social structures have been suspended and the traditional roles and expectations of women, in particular, are under review.

The characters

Guinea – actually Margaret – Peg – Malone
Meg’s sister Monnie 17yrs
Major Sherwood Alfrickson – nick-named ‘Alfalfa’
Colonel Byron Maddocks
Claire Jeffries – who would marry Nigel when they have 1000 pounds [probably equivalent to $100,000 in today’s terms]
Deb - married to Jack
Child 10 Luen = Araluen
Sister Nolly & Tom
Dallas MacIntyre – doctor, formerly Deb’s science teacher
Angus McFarland with Ian and Olive – and Helen (age23), Virginia and Lawrence -the landed Gentry
Helen has boyfriend Alec who has injured hand from war wound. – she ran away from him – socially inept
Blue and Doss – saving for a pub – need 1000 pounds
Bessie – runs the salon shop
Alice – also on staff in the Marie Antoinette beauty salon
Mary Parker – Alice’s sister
Ms D’Arcy-Twyning and Denny (Denise - DDT) – nouveau riche Mrs born in Manly – affects air of having travelled, etc.
Denny has American fiancée – also British navy fiancée Commander Derek Ermington
Morgan brothers [presumably related to J.P. Morgan – American multimillionaire]
Mrs Dalgety (customer - drunk) p25+ and Alistair lover is 20 years younger than her
Mrs Cavendish touts for the high-rolling baccarat game
Mrs Thelma Molesworth – the hotel
Lance Sharlton - L.F. [Ladies First] – hotel manager
Elvira [Virus] Beauchamp [with a P] - ‘the ancient room –maid from the sixth floor" p29
Ursula Cronin – salon receptionist
The directors – Veale, Allstone and D’Arcy-Twyning
The prostitutes - Shirley McGovern, Fay, Betty
Grace Smedley - Brothel keeper
Sport - Brothel owner and owner of the racehorse, Stormcloud
Doc – who performs the abortion
Joe – who runs the ‘floating’ gambling school for richer players

The structure

Sharing the features of a film script, the novel is compressed into an incredible eight days during which the stories of the central characters are developed in parallel and inter-related sequences through a series of shared and often simultaneous events. The stories are framed against a background of ambition for apparently unattainable wealth. The wealth is squandered by those who have it, the landed McFarland family, the vulgar rich D’Arcy – Twynings and the unselfconsciously rich American officers on leave, Byron and Sherwood, or it is gambled for by those who do not.

Opening with a two-up game in a jammed lift, gambling is the organising activity around which the women’s lives revolve. Luck is maintained as a guiding force in the successes and failures of the characters. Claire’s good luck in winning a fortune turns to bad as her fiancé Nigel loses it all. Mary Parker is unlucky that her abortion is botched, Guinea finally makes her own luck in deciding to marry her childhood sweetheart, Kim.

Section 1 Friday 1 - 97 – Two-up game, Deb and Jack during the depression, Monnie in Kings Cross, Deb and her sister Nolly, bushfires, Monnie in brothel

Section 2 Saturday 99 - 200 – Helen and Alec, the OBNOs ball, Angus’ proposal to Deb

Section 3 Sunday 201 - 309 – Reading and Australian books, Thelma dreams of hotel and marriage, Morgan’s barbeque in hotel room, Kim and Guinea look for Monnie

Section 4 Monday 311 - 416 – Labour Day holiday – Mary pregnant [p313], Dallas and abortion, Stormcloud wins, Deb rejected by McFarland women, romance and death, Monnie arrested

Section 5 Tuesday 417 - 538 – Monnie in prelim court hearing, Mary’s affair, Mary waits for abortion, PickPockettes at play, hotel director’s meet, Lofty in the bar, visiting Aunt Annie, Nigel’s ‘honour’

Section 6 Wednesday 539 - 632 - Monnie remanded to Aunt Annie, p561 Dobell and the Archibald prize, Mary Parker’s abortion [p.565], Sport and Angus meet, DDT, Women’s Temperance Union, Bessie’s story, Deb’s depression story – bank closures, Val and love, Helen and Alec at Luna Park, Claire and Nigel’s big win

Section 7 Thursday 633 - 686 – Ursula spying on the women, Thelma reprimands, Claire stands her ground, Mary dies, Ursula trapped by her own malice, Bessie arrested, Nigel loses the fortune, Val and Guinea stand up for Bessie, Lofty and Billo sort the landlady, friendships tested

Section 8 Friday 687 -711 – Blue wins on lottery ticket, Val bails Bessie from jail, Claire forgives Nigel, Deb decides to leave Jack for Angus, Kim wins a duck and proposes, Meg accepts on the toss of a coin

Student activities

Working in small groups with one ‘day’ per group [8 groups], allocate the reading of single sections within your group.

Record the main characters and events in your section.

Share individual findings in your group to develop a plot outline for your ‘day’.

As a whole group, develop a plot outline for the novel.

Use your experience of creating a group devised plot outline to identify the major characters and events in the novel.

Before completing your reading of the novel, predict the major themes and record them in your reading journal.


The more subtle differences between characters, the richness of the humour and the essential vitality of the period are captured in the language of the characters. Guinea’s take-off of Thelma Molesworth p.21 establishes the women’s consciousness of the class differences between them. Elvira’s consistently dropping the leading ‘h’ from where it belongs and replacing it where it does not, "Orizontal hor hotherwise" p. 53, indicates her working class origins and the cockney influence in earlier Australian accents. Blue is marked with his frequent use of slang and arguable grammar "I seen them boys in action up near Markham Valley and I hand it to them. They’re bobbydazzlers." P.584

The use and misuse of language provides an educational class distinction between the women of the beauty salon and the better educated teacher/doctor Dallas MacIntyre and her friends, the country-bred MacFarland’s and the lesser educated Blue, Bessie and Elvira. Mrs D’Arcy-Twyning’s actual origins in outer-suburban Manly are identified in the salon gossip but they are established as her speech breaks down when she is angry.

Elvira’s malapropisms – misuse of words that sounds similar [from Mrs Malaprop in Sheridan’s ‘The Rivals’] – sound very funny but they suggest her attempts to use more complex speech than she is familiar with, "Er kind of goin’s on is anathemia ter me." P.637 [anathema] and reveal her efforts to speak in a more refined manner than she has been born to.

Independently of their various ambitions, the rhyming slang of Blue, Lofty and Billo creates a linguistic identity for these three as ordinary soldiers with a shared background and wartime experiences. Lofty and Billo share a ‘pig’s ear’ [beer] after they have collected Bessie’s possessions from her room. Blue’s conversation is full of similarly colourful expressions and Sport’s language matches his need for more appropriate clothes to meet his rising respectability, "I got the horse from him all fair and square, didn’t I?" p. 632

Student activities

Slang and colloquial language use are common in the speech of all the central characters, eg Mrs Molesworth’s "turning on the dentures" p. 39 and "Put in the nips for a fiver" p519.

Working in groups, identify some of the slang terms used by the women and research their origins. Present your findings as wall posters.

How important are the patterns of speech in our understanding of the characters presented in the novel?
‘It’s good to hit the old steak-and-kid again." Lofty p. 492. In rhyming slang, ‘steak and kidney’ rhymes with ‘Sydney’.

Identify other examples of rhyming slang and suggest how its users rely on the familiarity of their listeners to establish shared meaning.

Nicknames often cleverly describe the way we feel about people. Elvira is Virus and Denise D’Arcy-Twyning is DDT.

Establish the origins of each of the characters’ nicknames and suggest how each is appropriate to its owner.

Discuss the use of nicknames in the novel to provide an added element of humour.

Secret languages can be made up in many ways. One is to change the order of syllables and add sounds to improve the flow of the words. When Guinea silences Elvira by shouting "Amscray" [p.663 ], she places the first syllable last and adds ‘ay’ to the word so ‘amscray’ means ‘scram’. This language is called ‘pig latin’.

Suggest why Guinea’s use of ‘pig latin’ at this point might silence Elvira so effectively.

Working in small groups, discuss your own experience of secret languages, words and expressions that are shared between small groups to keep secrets from those outside the group or to establish shared identity with the group.
Claire betrays her education and her ability to choose language that will stop Elvira’s gossiping about DDT’s sexual activities when she responds that she has ,"…never heard that blue blood was any specific against the spirochete, so it must be just luck" p. 53.

Use your knowledge of language to list examples of dialogue which establish the relationships between the women in the Marie Antoinette and their feelings about the salon clients.

What do these examples suggest about the education of the salon workers?

Mary Parker pauses in front of the Shakespeare statue and reflects on his lines from the Tempest, "We are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little life is rounded with a sleep." The Tempest [IV,i]

As a whole group, discuss the way Shakespeare’s speech helps us to understand Mary’s feelings at this point.

Are these feelings consistent with the way her character has been developed by the authors?

Chapter endings often contain ironic or laconic commentary. As Monnie is delivered into prostitution, [p.141] "Fay gave a dry little laugh. ‘Sure. She’ll love Sport."’ . When Thelma and L.F. are panicking about the hotel room fire, Blue reports "Fourth floor, madam. The Morgan’s suite. I’ve rung the fire brigade" [p.300]. Later, Mary records, "The cistern gushed … Oh, she was well rid of that." [p.567].Working in groups, examine each of the section endings for a single day.

How does the tone of the final lines reflect the characters’ views of events?
In a full group discussion, consider how the authors use their section endings to suggest how we should feel as readers.

The television mini-series

The length and complexity of ‘Spinner’ makes it a real challenge for teacher and student alike. It may be an even greater challenge for reluctant readers – male or female – but teachers selecting the novel will have considered this possibility. More importantly, the television mini-series distorts the integrity of the plot, reduces the depth of characterisation and renders the social issues as incidentals. In consequence, it becomes less than useful as an alternative representation of the novel. Teachers seeking to teach the novel through the mini-series will find the differences in both depth of character and breadth of social exploration difficult to retrieve.

The collapsing of the Parker sister’s story creates a tragedy for Claire which works well on the screen and reduces the number of characters but it reduces the scope of the novel. The reduction of Nigel’s role as a struggling actor and as a gambler diminishes the exploration of underworld gambling, racketeering and black market trading. The settings, however, are generally unfamiliar and the mini-series assists with these as it does with fashion and speech.

Student activities

Compare the opening of the television mini-series with the opening section of the novel.
How does each establish the difference between the staff and clients at the Hotel Pacific?
The statue of the Bouncing Belle suggests the unrefined origins of the hotel. Its decoration with a brassiere helps introduce the underlying good humour of the central characters.
Blue’s wife Doss is removed from the mini-series and he is partnered by Bessie instead. How does this reduce our understanding of the operation of the South Pacific hotel.

Is the visual information provided in the mini-series enough to replace the lost description from the novel?

The mini-series neglects the relationship between Thelma and L.F. Discuss the value of including their relationship for our understanding of the ambitions of Australians during the depression and World War 2. Do the background and ambition of L.F add significantly to our understanding of the life of the period?

Imagine that L.F and Nigel meet with Byron at a hotel management conference after the war. Develop a two minute dialogue in which they discuss their recollections of the South Pacific. Rehearse the meeting and play it to the whole group.

The television mini-series deletes the Parker girls and expands Claire’s role. How does this change the way we can think about Claire?
Blue’s two-up game in the lift is shifted in the mini-series and the role of the racehorse Stormcloud is almost removed. Suggest how these changes reduce the potential for showing how gambling affects the characters in the novel

Novel length: In its present form, ‘Spinner’ is over 200,000 words, about twice the length of the average novel. Despite its having won the Australian novel prize in 1948, the original publishers, the ‘Daily Telegraph’, wanted 50,000 words cut. When this task was completed, their London publishing affiliate wanted a further 50,000 words cut. The resulting abridged version published in 1951 was approximately half the size of this edition.

Student Activities

Working in small editorial teams, select one ‘day’ from the novel and discuss the relative importance of each section.
Decide which sections could be reduced and which could be cut completely.
Working as a whole group, report the details of each abridged ‘day’ in order.
Have any deletions been made which affect understanding of later events?
What effect does your editing have on the complexity of the novel?
Are there any other ways you could have edited the novel?


‘Spinner’ provides ample opportunity to explore a wide range of themes under any of three major headings: social change, women and war. Because the novel is centred on the changing fortunes of the four women in the beauty salon, it is tempting to suggest that this is a ‘women’s novel’. Its exploration of war is rather one-sided as the only service-men are on leave from active service, retired or in reserved occupations. The novel provides its greatest potential as an account of social change. The removal of most of the local men from the Australian social scene establishes a laboratory in which socially accepted behavioural norms, the law, morality and social constructs such as marriage and family can be examined under a metaphorical microscope. The roles of the depression and subsequent levels of governmental control are foregrounded while changing attitudes to love, romance and men are critically questioned as they impact on the lives and deaths of the women in the salon.

Student Activities

Guinea and Kim may be the only characters in the novel to ‘live happily ever after’ but the authors provide an ominous setting for the proposal. Guinea’s playful acceptance on the coin toss is overshadowed by the mock battle of the bombers overhead, p. 364. Consider the juxtaposition of the happy future with Kim’s potentially sudden and violent death. Has Meg made the right decision? Should she have taken the chance to remain ‘Guinea’? Is there a choice for her future?

Angus McFarland makes an ‘honorable proposal’ to Deb who is married. Claire believes that Nigel is ‘honourable’ because he won’t marry her until they have 1000 pounds.
What is ‘honourable’ behaviour?

Make a list of the major characters and their partners and discuss the range of partnerships that could be ‘honourable’.

Do your conclusions match with the authors’ actions? Discuss the reasons for differences.

Jack moved from the Vineyard to being a car salesman without consulting Deb. Now he is insisting on a return to the Vineyard without consulting her. Is this sufficient reason for her divorcing him? If Deb marries Angus, should she take Luen to live with her? What alternatives does she have?
"God spare me from good women" [p518] says Claire to Guinea. Is her response fair to Mrs Malone.

• Working in small groups, research the powers of the Children’s Court in today’s society.
• Do you believe that the Children’s Court of the time would have allowed Monnie to go to Aunt Annie.
• The Court official seems to be very concerned for Monnie’s welfare. Discuss the credibility of his address to the families.



‘Two up’ is commonly accepted as a specifically Australian game and the authors use it to quickly and clearly locate the South Pacific hotel as being in Australia with Blue as a working class Australian. The symbolic power of the two-up game to establish both location and class is strengthened when it is contrasted with the baccarat school that Claire and Nigel use to win their one thousand pounds. The carefully advertised baccarat game announced by Mrs Cavendish is highly illegal and its richer players risk jail to play. In contrast, Two up is not a game of large stakes; it is illegal but not so much that is treated as anything more than bad taste by the patrons of the South Pacific.
Off-course gambling on horse racing is also illegal but gambling at the race track is legal so the sport symbolises a middle world, respectable to horse owners such as McFarland and Doc, the wealthy and upper classes. It is desirable for characters like Sport because it legitimises money made from previous illegal activity [like his brothel ownership]. The poorer [lower] classes must place their bets through acquaintances or gamble illegally.


From the exotic cut flowers afforded by the rich American officers to the wild flowers that Mary Parker recalls as she waits for her abortion, flowers represent the lives and fortunes of the central characters. Given as gifts, they offer promises of fabulous futures but they wilt and wither and their perfume changes until they mark Mary’s lonely death in Bessie’s room. Wild and unpicked they recall happier, less complicated lives for Deb and Jack before the war; in large vases they mark the prosperity of the South Pacific patrons and provide a bouquet for Claire as she prepares for Nigel and the card game; as rare orchids they propose wealth and comfort for Guinea in America.

Student Activities

Blue is a disciplined gambler. When he wins, he gives most of the money to his wife Doss because they are saving to buy a hotel of their own.
Working in groups, discuss the gambling motives of each of the characters and suggest who you feel sympathy with.

What is the outcome of their gambling? How else might they have acted?
How important is luck as a theme in the novel?

The big losers in ‘Spinner’ are Jack, Mary, Byron and Claire. Are there any winners?

Select one of these characters, identify the gamble they take, report the consequences of their gamble and discuss the impact of their gambling on those who support them.

Working in small groups, identify each of the references to flowers for each day.

Establish which characters and events the reference is associated with.

Suggest what the authors are using the flowers to represent.

Are the references associated with particular types of events?

It has been argued that flowers are usually associated with feminine activity but their symbolism is more powerful than that in ‘Spinner’. Do you agree?
Write a response in which you provide specific examples from the novel to support your view.


It is common to focus on the misery of the poor and helpless. This novel, however, celebrates the lives of its women. They are shown as almost uniformly irrepressible and it is their recognition of the humour of their situation that allows them to defuse potentially damaging, even disastrous situations. Deb’s survival of the depression on the southern beaches provides Jack with support for his belief in their future; Guinea’s treatment of Byron and Alfalfa when they arrive together allows the men to remain friends though rivals; Claire’s good humour shields the girls from both Ursula and Thelma while Elvira (Virus) provides comic relief with her black marketeering and petty theft from the clients – particularly DDT. As a result, it is a novel of vitality and humour. Blue’s two-up game in the lift, the caricatures of the rich hotel patrons, the endless look-outs for Thelma, the spying Ursula and the role of Lofty in reclaiming Bessie’s belongings from the landlady each helps to snatch humour from the jaws of tragedy and misery. Played for laughs, ‘Spinner’ provides an insight into the ways people overcome their personal grief under intense and disapproving public gaze.

Student activities

Focusing on Blue’s speech throughout the novel, suggest how his optimistic attitude to life is reflected in the things he talks about.

• Find examples to show how he changes his speech patterns to speak to different people.
• Use your study to discuss the importance of considering audience when we wish to communicate effectively.

Working in pairs, imagine you are Kim and Meg. You have just won a duck. Develop dialogue and action and present the scene where you travel from the spinning wheel to the park when you tether the duck.

Friends and acquaintances

The breakdown among friends precipitated by Val’s going to Bessie’s aid after the botched abortion death of Mary is a deeply disturbing climax to the novel. It reflects the fragility of the women’s individual relationships with each other while amplifying their collective need.

Monnie’s prostitution, Denise Darcy-Twining’s engagements, the relationship of Helen and Alex, and Mary’s death are side-plays to the main narrative line but they provide the motivation for exploring kinship and friendship in detail. Monnie’s escapade introduces Guinea’s family and Kim’s mother. Guinea’s essential reality as Peg [Margaret] is illuminated through her need for family stability. Her decision to help Val when Bessie is arrested and finally to marry Kim become comprehensible against this background. She is, at the bottom, a well brought up home girl rather than the show-case image of the newspaper photograph and the American Colonel. In contrast, DDT’s shifting engagements humorously highlight her instability, her wilfulness and her incapacity to form meaningful relationships. Against this background, Helen McFarland’s burgeoning love for the war-wounded Alex allows an exploration of the laws of property inheritance while it explores one of the few relatively simple relationships in the novel.

Mary Parker’s death is the tragedy from which all events in the novel climax. Dallas McIntyre’s principled stand in responding to Deb’s involvement with Angus MacFarland generates the context in which the fatal abortion is conducted. Its impact is exaggerated by the fragility of the Salon women’s relationships with their men and the classed environment in which they work. Avoiding publicity for the hotel motivates Thelma and L.F. but it impacts equally on the reputations, and therefore the ambitions, of Claire, Guinea and Deb. Each could lose her job, each could lose her man – Deb could lose both of her men, and her daughter too!

Student activities

The negro soldiers and sailors in Kings Cross, the aboriginal prostitutes and jewish refugees [reffos] from Europe are each identified in blatantly racist responses from otherwise admirable or respectable characters.
Identify examples of racism in the novel and discuss the ways in which attitudes have changed in Australia since the novel was written.

Mrs Dalgety’s boyfriend Alistair is a conscripted soldier, "a Choco – caught in the draft." [p. 26]
• Use the library to research the history of conscription in Australia. When was it first introduced? When was it last used?
• There is a wide range of views about the justice of conscripting people into an army for war. Identify what these views might be and write a brochure in which you argue the rights of your viewpoint.

The death of Mrs Slowman’s son establishes that both rich and poor die in wars.
• Identify the people who have been killed in the novel and those who are at risk. How does each relate to the central characters?
• Discuss the effect of the authors’ sympathies for soldiers at war on your feelings for the women in the novel.

Blue’s win with the lottery ticket means that he and Doss can leave the hotel and achieve their ambition. Guinea tells Kim she will have to toss a coin to decide whether she will marry him. Claire seems destined to unhappiness because of Nigel’s addiction to gambling. Consider whether the authors are suggesting that life is a game of chance. What do you feel about this view.

Perspectives on the novel

The interwoven plots are so skilfully maintained that they allow us to remain surprised by the complexity of the women to the very end. Deb’s decision to leave Jack is probably the hardest decision made in the novel [It’s complexity is well depicted in the television mini-series]. By comparison, Claire’s return to Nigel appears weak-willed and Guinea’s coin-tossing with Kim becomes playful banter. She has shown glimmerings of maturity but her decision to marry appears more playful than serious. The roar of the planes in mock combat overhead presage Kim’s future and it is difficult to accept that Guinea has considered this reality. On the other hand, she may be only too aware of the fleeting nature of married bliss, her essential goodness being sufficient motivation to give Kim what little happiness he may have left before he is killed in action. "Come in, Spinner".

The authors write extended passages describing the social patterns behind the lives of the main characters. Liquor and gaming laws, prostitution and the law as it is applied to women, poverty and the depression, absentee landowners, black marketeering and the impact of the American soldiers on city society are each explored in depth as they affect the lives and ambitions of the central characters. The result is to make the novel overly long and, at times, heavily didactic. It has been described variously as ‘A working class polemic’ and ‘Grapes of Wrath in skirts’. A useful discussion centres on the question confronting the authors when they were originally told to remove 50,000 words and then another 50,000 words before the novel was published.

What can be removed without violating the integrity of the womens’ story?
As the novel suggests, involvement in World War 2 became a step out of the depression period for Australian men but it provided no such break for the women who remained behind. Instead of waiting on their men to find work, they were pressed into service themselves. The work, as Monnie demonstrates, was not necessarily fulfilling nor was it optional. In a state of war, civil liberties were restricted and the class structure was reinforced in the strict servitude and narrow morality demanded of the women.

The stark contrast between the expected behaviour of the employees of the Marie Antointette and the women they serve, Mrs Dalgetty, Mrs Darcy-Twining and DDT, is amplified in reactions to Guinea’s invitation to the OBNOs Ball and in the sexual promiscuity of the Pick Pockettes. Women are not equal and they are expected to accept their lot. The novel creates a powerful argument in opposing this viewpoint but ultimately accedes. Without independent income sources, the women remain essentially powerless, their only option to marry out. Rejecting idealism, Deb leaves Jack for her daughter’s sake as much as her own. She may not have love but she will have stability and the money to buy whatever she desires. She will never ‘want’ again.

Student Activities

Cusack and James show Australian society to be highly stratified according to class. They suggest that it has always been this way. Recent writers depict an almost classless society. Has Australian society changed in the half century since the novel was written? How would you describe Australian society?
‘Heaven preserve us from good women’ says Claire. The women of the Marie Antoinette are involved in a range of actions we do not approve of, but ultimately they are all ‘good’ women. Do you agree?

More than fifty years later, we are still discussing the level of gambling in Australian society. Discuss whether we can learn from our past mistakes.
‘Win some, lose some. Life’s a game. You take your chance.’ What do you think?

Miles Franklin said that "Without an indigenous literature people can remain aliens on their own soil. An unsung country does not fully exist nor enjoy adequate exchange in the inner life". (intro p. vii)

To what extent do you feel that novels such ‘Come in Spinner’ can reduce the level of alienation of Australians from their ‘Australian-ness’.

Working in small groups, consider the statement: "Florence James appears to believe that their novel is a celebration of Australian life. It’s more like a collage of women’s suffering." Collect examples which both support and refute the statement and use these to consider what you think of the novel.

Extended resources

Film: Caddie
Play: Dinkum Assorted, Morning Sacrific by Dymphna Cusack

Notes at random for discussion

Class distinctions – confusion of class and within class
The 6 o’clock swill – liquor laws
Manpower protected industry
Elvira and wifely duty on Monday night p.54
DDT Denise D’Arcy-Twining – husband in India – foreshadows Indian independence
57 underwear. Guinea, Mrs Dalgety, blackmarket in, the diaphonous black nightdress
Mrs Slowman’s son killed – the rich also die in war
Guinea on "a soapbox in the domain" – mentioned several times –The OBNOs Ball and Mrs DDT p. 182
Deb’s visit to north shore - near Pymble
Taxi ride - French’s Forest
Deb and Jack and bushfires
Reminisce first bushfire – near Bateman’s Bay during depression 1934. Romanticised by Nolly. Tom and Jack escape fire in well – not romantic
Legend surrounding Jack after fire p. 168
Baby’s petrol – petrol rationing. Also food and clothing rationing
the Vineyard – symbolism [note the visit in the tv miniseries – useful contextual evidence of why Deb responds the way she does.