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A Room Made of Leaves

A Room Made of Leaves

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Australian history, like most histories, is a bit light-on when it comes to women, because they left so little behind. Join the Women's Prize newsletter for a chance to win a stack of all 6 brilliant 2023 shortlisted books, and get the latest book news, author features and exciting competitions! I found this one special as historical books tend to focus on men; women weren’t given many opportunities to show their strengths and talents back in the past. There's a great insight into the early history of Australia here - with attitudes making it clear that white settlers and natives had conflict and the damage that these settlers were doing by partitioning the land. Kate Grenville has now written several books set in the early years of the British colonisation of New South Wales and while this one treads slightly different territory to its predecessors, there is necessarily some cross over of events and personnel.

Elizabeth describes the restrictions she had on her freedom which meant that in her daily walks nothing much changed for her viewing.Williams also invents a character through which to experience the world, and gives some of the real people nicknames. I was hoping this story would be more about her character and establishing and running Elizabeth Farm in her husband's absences but this seemed to be only a footnote at the end of the novel. In The Dictionary of Lost Words (read recently) I felt the author covered the topics Grenville tries to cover here, but more deftly; with more sensitivity to handling the lives of real people. This turns out to be an uneasy coupling, as the novel tries to balance the happy empowerment of Elizabeth, her flourishing against the odds in a hostile environment, with the inescapable knowledge that the conditions of her flourishing depend on the oppression of others.

A female perspective adds a different view on the men's scheming and how they dealt with the native people. It was set as a book club read, but our meeting has been postponed until December and I can't yet include views of my real life reading friends. Indeed most of the people Elizabeth encounters regard the indigenous people as ‘savages’, referring to them as ‘our sable brethren’.In 1789 she makes the arduous journey across the sea with her husband and baby to the newly established penal colony in New South Wales. I was slightly put out when , at the end, I realised that this had all been a trick, but in a way it somehow made me appreciate this stunning novel even more. Forced to travel with him to New South Wales, she arrives to find Sydney Town a brutal, dusty, hungry place of makeshift shelters, failing crops, scheming, and rumours. At first I was intrigued, then I was enthralled, and by the end I felt as though Elizabeth had been a flesh-and-blood friend. The story unfolds in small chapter-fragments, their short paragraphs packed with gorgeous descriptions of the Australian landscape — “a slice of harbor rough and blue like lapis”, a stone overhang “with a fraying underside, soft as cake, that glowed yellow” — and compressed emotional power.

  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
  • EAN: 764486781913
  • Sold by: Fruugo

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