15 November 2020

Review: A ROOM MADE OF LEAVES, Kate Grenville

  • this edition published by textpublishing 2020
  • 322 pages
  • ISBN 9781922330024
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (textpublishing)

What if Elizabeth Macarthur—wife of the notorious John Macarthur, wool baron in the earliest days of Sydney—had written a shockingly frank secret memoir? And what if novelist Kate Grenville had miraculously found and published it? That’s the starting point for A Room Made of Leaves, a playful dance of possibilities between the real and the invented.

Marriage to a ruthless bully, the impulses of her heart, the search for power in a society that gave women none: this Elizabeth Macarthur manages her complicated life with spirit and passion, cunning and sly wit. Her memoir lets us hear—at last!—what one of those seemingly demure women from history might really have thought.

At the centre of A Room Made of Leaves is one of the most toxic issues of our own age: the seductive appeal of false stories. This book may be set in the past, but it’s just as much about the present, where secrets and lies have the dangerous power to shape reality.

Kate Grenville’s return to the territory of The Secret River is historical fiction turned inside out, a stunning sleight of hand by one of our most original writers.

My Take

It is very tempting to regard this book as definitive history of life in the early colony of New SouthWales, but both the author and the narrator remind us that it is "faction", a fiction that is a possible interpretation of the rather skimpy evidence available. However it serves to remind us of us difficult life in those times was, nothing like the life we live now. How did women like Elizabeth Macarthur survive and how much of the male legacy from those times is actually due to the women who accompanied them?

A very good read, with a touch of mystery and a little spice to keep the interest level up.

My Rating: 4.8

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