As I dip my toe into researching my next novel I couldn't go past Kate Grenville's latest novel A Room of Leaves. Although set in NSW (not SA as mine will be) it is has helped me reconnect with the mindset of the free settlers in colonial Australia. I went looking to learn how she managed the frontier wars while avoiding the temptation to write through 21st century eyes. To find out how she stepped around her white privilege while clearly and unavoidable using it. I am in awe of how she managed this and would love to hear how it sits for an Aboriginal person. Below is my review of it in Goodreads.
Kate Grenville has once again taken me into the world of colonial NSW through the totally believable voice of Elizabeth Macarthur. Like Elizabeth, Kate Grenville weaves the unspoken truth into the narration of a story that to date has been left untold. She paints the obnoxious John Macarthur as a conniving self-interested bully and the reader is on Elisabeth's side as she works out not only how to survive in the harshness of rum riddled Sydney but to find her own way to happiness. Kate's astute use of historical archives are well known but it is her knowledge of human nature and her ability to step into her character's point of view that make this another unforgettable novel. Her honest but historically appropriate expose if the Parramatta Massacre was both haunting and gut-wrenchingly simple. How easy it was for even the sympathetic Mrs Macarthur to question then blink and turn away back to her own relatively comfortable life. The words "Do not believe too quickly' should follow us all into a BLM era where so many of us must now question our privilege.
I have been reading Kate Grenville since her "Joan Makes History" demonstrated to me the power of fiction to hold a mirror up to society and reflect the truth behind the long accepted myopic historical records. I have been trying to emulate her since!
Jennifer is a writer of short stories, novels and a family history.