This beautifully wrought novel, from the author of The Secret River, tells a story of passion and resilience, giving voice to a woman silenced by history.
It is 1788. Twenty-one-year-old Elizabeth is hungry for life but, as the ward of a Devon clergyman, knows she has few prospects. When proud, scarred soldier John Macarthur promises her the earth one midsummer’s night, she believes him.
But Elizabeth soon realises she has made a terrible mistake. Her new husband is reckless, tormented, driven by some dark rage at the world. He tells her he is to take up a position as Lieutenant in a New South Wales penal colony and she has no choice but to go. Sailing for six months to the far side of the globe with a child growing inside her, she arrives to find Sydney Town a brutal, dusty, hungry place of makeshift shelters, failing crops, scheming and rumours.
All her life she has learned to be obliging, to fold herself up small. Now, in the vast landscapes of an unknown continent, Elizabeth has to discover a strength she never imagined, and passions she could never express.
Inspired by the real life of a remarkable woman, this is an extraordinarily rich, beautifully wrought novel of resilience, courage and the mystery of human desire.
“Kate Grenville is a literary alchemist, turning the leaden shadow of the historical Elizabeth Macarthur into a luminescent, golden woman for our times. Intelligent, compassionate, strategic and dead sexy, Grenville’s Macarthur is an unforgettable character who makes us question everything we thought we knew about our colonial past. A polished gem of a novel by a writer who is as brave as she is insightful. I simply loved it.” Clare Wright
Our Author: Kate Grenville
Kate Grenville‘s bestselling novel The Secret River received the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Miles Franklin Literary Award. The Idea of Perfection won the Orange Prize. Grenville’s other novels include Sarah Thornhill, The Lieutenant, Lilian’s Story, Dark Places and Joan Makes History.
My review: A Room Made Of Leaves
Its amazing to think that they book has been created not just from the knowledge Kate Grenville has of her native country, but also from Elizabeth McArthurs actual transcriptions.
The historical side of the story is fairly bleak, 1788, a lack of hope and feeling of isolation. Elizabeth grows up with a local family, in Bridgerule in Devon, the Kingdon’s after her father dies, and her Mothers new husband is none too keen on Elizabeth. The Kingdon’s daughter Bridie, and Elizabeth become firm friends a friendship which is more than just that and one which endures the test of time and distance.
A Room Made of Leaves is the work of fact and fiction, Kate Grenville travelling to Devon to research Elizabeth’s history from Parish records and also used her knowledge of Australian history to create this book. Making the revered John McArthur not the hero he is hailed, but the ruthless bully he is revealed to be. When he spent long periods of time on board ship back and forth between England and Australia. Elizabeth ran the farm and breed the sheep for wool successfully, remembering what her Grandfather had taught her, all while he was away. Bore several children and kept house.
Thought-provoking and rich in history for many, the aboriginal and penal colony factual history will strike a chord with many on the relevant slave trade and black history. An evocative and timely novel, enjoyable, and undoubtedly researched thoroughly. The background and characters add essence and plot to this book. A great read for anyone wanting a sense of Australian grounding.
To buy – A Room Made of Leaves https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Kate-Grenville/A-Room-Made-of-Leaves/24933493
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