As I began this novel it seemed like a competent piece of historical fiction set in Australia shortly before the end of the nineteenth century. And as I read I marvelled at the research, how thorough and detailed it all was and how much depth it gave to Dolly's story and how it highlighted the lack of equality between men and women at that time in history. As I continued with my reading I was impressed by how Dolly made the best of her situation and tried to overcome gender restraints as far as was possible without distorting society's rules too dramatically. On one level I admired her but it did seem to come at a price and I was often left feeling that her children were victims of a degree of neglect emotionally. But you also feel that there's an element of history repeating itself as Dolly's relationship with her parents was not warm to say the least. It wasn't until I reached the end and read the author's additional notes that I realised this was a fiction that had been constructed around some basic family facts in particular a single incident that happened to the author when she was a child. It's powerful. Dolly Maunder was a real person and she did all of the things described in the book. Somehow that revelation added another dimension to the story.
Ms. Grenville has a proven track record - Commonwealth Writers' Prize, shortlisted for the Man Booker and Miles Franklin Literary Award snd winner of the Orange Prize. The writing is assured and the prose steps just beyond that of linear story telling. But above all Kate Grenville gives a voice to one, ordinary woman unwilling to be defined by the expectations of the age.
My thanks to Canongate Book for a gifted copy.On oneOneOn oneOn one