“Even that word, the, the least regarded word in the language, strikes me as absurd. How can there be the history? Beyond one the, watertight and trim, lies another, just as watertight, just as trim.”
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; shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction
SHORTLISTED FOR THE WALTER SCOTT PRIZE FOR HISTORICAL FICTION
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.
“Beautifully written, insistently eloquent and expressive of connection … [a] stunning literary achievement”
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“Kate Grenville spins a delicately teasing novel about the inherent untrustworthiness of the official record … beautiful and subtle”
“Grenville cleverly uses Elizabeth’s bland and pleasant missives home, showing that they were a carefully constructed fiction. The real Elizabeth — passionate, clever and endlessly resilient — is brilliantly conjured”
“Kate Grenville gives voice to this reticent woman, allowing her smart, sparky, shrewd heroine a chance “at last to speak” … eloquent [and] evocative”
“The absorbing story of a woman discovering herself in the vast expanse of a new world, told in rich, insightful prose”
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.