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A Room Made of Leaves
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A Room Made of Leaves (Hardback)

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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.

Fiction & PoetryHistorical Fiction Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd Publication Date: 06/08/2020 ISBN-13: 9781838851231  Details: Type: Hardback Format: Books
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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.

More books by Kate Grenville

Customer Reviews

Negotiating a way through an unhappy marriage is not a new phenomenon, and in this wonderful historical novel Elizabeth must do so from 1788. Beginning a seemingly idyllic rural Devon, Elizabeth realises that family relationships must be carefully handled, that her beloved and strict Grandfather has her best interest at heart, and the fat contended sheep around her are the product of many years of care. She begins to realise that women must guard themselves closely and that letting down that guard can, and does have a life changing effect. This book is a picture of a hard and sometimes brutal life seen through the eyes of a woman who knows that her husband, John Macarthur, needs careful handling. A balanced and carefully nuanced story of a woman who left some evidence of her life and work, this book reveals how carefully she had to handle her unstable husband, widely credited for bringing sheep and other economic innovations to the settlements in Australia. Written by an Australian author with due consideration for the fate of the Aboriginal peoples affected, this is a story written describing a new life for some in an unwelcoming world. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this beautifully written book. Seen as “The Memoirs of Elizabeth Macarthur”, this book begins with the story of Elizabeth’s early life, including the early death of her father. She grows to benefit from the companionship of Bridie, daughter of the local clergyman the Reverend Kingdon. She knows that her “Grandfather was what was called an improving farmer”, paying attention to the breeding of stock. As she grows she understands that she is relatively well educated for a woman, but that nonetheless she will always have to be aware of her secondary status to men, even when their temperament and education is deficient. When she is pressed into marriage she soon realises that she must walk a difficult path with Macarthur, a man who loves to plot and plan, extract what he can from every situation. This disturbing tendency is exacerbated when they set sail for Australia, experiencing the cramped conditions of a ship transporting convicts. Worse than the physical conditions is the mental strain of Macarthur’s jealousy, ambition and unresolved hatred for the sailors. Australia is at this time a small series of settlements, six months sailing from Britain, struggling with lack of viable crops and short of the basics of life. She knows that she must adapt to survive, together with her children, and that not only the surroundings present a danger. This is a novel of insight into personalities, especially of Elizabeth and Macarthur, the mercurial man who regarded marriage as the satisfaction of animal desire, children as possessions, and his wife as a sometimes useful assistant. As Elizabeth learns how to fold her true self small in order to prevent hurt and more, she appreciates how to manage her husband and gain her own space, however small. This is a novel which is painfully honest about marriage, about a woman’s life, and the incremental changes she makes. It is about honesty, self awareness and more. A story of ambition and honesty, love and pain, it speaks of one woman’s life, but also the forming of people.

- 14/08/2020
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