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A Room Made of Leaves Hardcover – 2 July 2020
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- Hardcover : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1922330027
- ISBN-13 : 978-1922330024
- Dimensions : 2.82 x 2.82 cm
- Publisher : Text Publishing (2 July 2020)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: 214 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
"Grenville invites the reader to reflect on the complex relationship between truth and falsehood, history and fiction...[A] stunning literary achievement."--Kirsten Tranter, Guardian
"There is no doubt Grenville is one of our greatest writers."--Sunday Mail
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, author of You Daughters of Freedom
"Giving voice to the countless generations of women who were prevented from telling their true stories...Compelling."--Herald-Sun
"Vividly rendered, warmly sympathetic, daring in speculative breadth: a full-length portrait in oils of a woman known to most of us only in profile miniature...If Grenville's novel is inspired by provocation, it unfolds as a feeling, organic story."--The Australian
"Grenville so convincingly creates Elizabeth's voice it is easy to forget her opening warning: 'Do not believe too quickly!'...Grenville's Elizabeth stays with you."--Conversation
"'Memorable...Macarthur comes to vivid life...A gorgeously tactile sense of the Australian bush."--Mercury
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Top reviews from Australia
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While much of the narrative draws a clear picture of life in Sydney, the most atmospheric parts are in the sea journey half way across the world.
Grenville's writing imbues Mrs Macarthur with modern feminist sensibilities, while capturing the challenges of life for a woman of her time. I did find the inconsistencies in the main character irritating - more so because of the use of the first person narrative style. She explains away these inconsistencies quite glibly - Eliza's husband reads her letters - but fails to really appreciate the life of privilege she has in the town.
Granville makes no claim to the story being accurate and admits to being "slippery" with the truth. However she does weave facts in and out of the narrative - especially about treatment of aboriginal people, but her melding of several governors and officials into one, and her glossing over of some important historical events is what grates.
As a novel it is entertaining enough, but rather less substantial than others by the same author.
In reading this account of Elizabeth Maccarthur's life, it has made me want to know more about Australia's earliest colonists and what they achieved.
I did enjoy the first few chapters, about Elizabeth's childhood. Grenville's prose style is beautiful. However, I think of all her books, this is the least successful although it's certainly an easy read and reasonably entertaining.
For me, Grenville's portrayal of the characters was a bit one-dimensional. None of them rang true. Mrs Macarthur and her husband were almost caricatures. Elizabeth was too good to be true - although history does portray her as a woman of intelligence, diligence, grace and VIRTUE. History shows her husband as argumentative, irascible and difficult to like. However, in this book he had no redeeming qualities at all. The secondary characters also came across as 'types' rather than believable human beings.
History shows that even though Macarthur was away for some time and Elizabeth was left in charge, he was an astute businessman and his letters to her show his considerable interest and control of the breeding and marketing of fine wool. There is no doubt that she also played an equally, if not more important part, but his role cannot be discounted. This book seems to want to do just that.
If you are going to write a fictional, historical biographical romance, and this book is total fiction - there were no letters - why would you choose a woman who is well known in Australian history and turn her into an 18th century Mills & Boon heroine.
History tells us that Elizabeth and Dawes were friends, but she was also a particular friend of Governor Philip. There is nothing to say that they were lovers. And in the tiny Colony that was Sydney in the 1790s, it would have been virtually impossible for someone as well known as Elizabeth Macarthur to have such a full-on affair - even a small flirtation would have been noticed I would imagine.
I think Grenville has done Mrs Macarthur a disservice. This to me was popular fiction and I think it would have worked well as just that, if it had been about a fictional heroine.
Top reviews from other countries
I purchased this book with the notion that I would be reading a fictional story, this meant I was met with surprise when I read at the beginning the editor’s note which described the findings of Elizabeth’s story within a roof cavity and this book would be her story, her words. This thrilled me immediately, and I devoured the book intently. I felt as though I was living through her, I had traveled back in time to this unknown land and all of a sudden history was been stitched together in front of me. However, upon reading the authors notes at the end of the book I discovered that in fact the story that I had just read was actual fiction and the editors notes at the beginning where in fact false. The world of Elizabeth that I had created to exist in apart of my brain that was so rich and full of vivid beauty and truth was all of a sudden covered in a dark mist, I know I sound dramatic but it feels fraudulent to some degree. Maybe I’m the fool for believing too quickly.
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