Anna MacDonald reviews 'Beautiful Revolutionary' by Laura Elizabeth Woollett

Anna MacDonald reviews 'Beautiful Revolutionary' by Laura Elizabeth Woollett

Beautiful Revolutionary

by Laura Elizabeth Woollett

Scribe, $32.99 pb, 400 pp, 9781925713039

Laura Elizabeth Woollett’s novel Beautiful Revolutionary chronicles the decade leading up to the Jonestown massacre in Guyana when Jim Jones, founder of the Peoples Temple, orchestrated the ‘revolutionary suicide’ and murder of more than 900 members of his congregation, as well as the assassinations of US Congressman Leo Ryan, a delegation of journalists, and a defector from ‘the Cause’.

Woollett spent years researching the novel; she interviewed survivors and relatives of the deceased. Given the extent of this research – her preservation of Jones’s name and character, her utilisation of the biographies of those close to him, her detailed representation of the historical events leading up to and including the massacre on 18 November 1978 – it is a curious decision on the author’s part to change the names of other key historical figures, especially Jones’s lover, Carolyn Layton (who, in the novel, becomes Evelyn Lynden), and his wife, Marceline Baldwin (here, Rosaline).

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Published in October 2018, no. 405
Anna MacDonald

Anna MacDonald

Anna MacDonald writes about spatial poetics and the topographical imagination. She has published numerous essays on W.G. Sebald, Gaston Bachelard, and contemporary artists including Susan Norrie, Cindy Sherman, and Jenny Holzer. Her short stories have appeared in international anthologies and she is currently writing a novel. Anna is a Research Associate at Monash University and bookseller at Melbourne's Paperback Bookshop.