Thea Astley’s short story ‘Coming of Age’ subtly evokes the feelings felt by a girl who is bridging the gap between the preteen years into adolescence. It starts out with a narrative of a playful childhood spent outdoors with the family where she hangs on trees, upside down, wearing no more than a navy skirt and an embroidered red sweater, and observes her parents and their peace shattering spats.
She amuses herself with strange pursuits such as reading life histories of those in graves in cemeteries, skidding down an ancient canon in Newstead Park or taking pride in sinking the gun Oronsay not too far from the mouth of Breakfast Creek. Being incredibly perceptive, she realises her parents live in strained harmony as they whisper things far from pleasant to each other in acid tones and simple arguments escalate.
Her main focus though is on a day at Newstead Park that has been ingrained in her memory. Her parents are fighting yet again trying to conceal the fact but even though she is only twelve, she realises a truce is needed between the warring factions. In her innocence, she makes a display of acrobatics as a diversionary tactic. This backfires spectacularly when her mother beckons her and delivers an embarrassing blow with one simple line which ensures that she will never climb trees again.