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Kate Grenvile

In Restless Dolly Maunder, Kate Grenville weaves a fictional narrative around her grandmother, a woman she remembers as ‘aloof, thin, frowning, cranky’, and knew through her mother’s stories as ‘uncaring, selfish, unloving. Even a bit mad.’

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In 2006, a year after the publication of Kate Grenville’s The Secret River, Inga Clendinnen published ‘The History Question’ as part of Black Inc.’s Quarterly Essay series. ‘The History Question’ was, as its subtitle ‘Who Owns the Past?’ suggests, a wide-ranging meditation on the nature of historical understanding, and, more specifically, its uses and abuses. But at its heart lay an extended and surprisingly savage critique of The Secret River, the claims Clendinnen believed Grenville had made for it, and for fiction’s capacity to illuminate the past; and, more deeply, of the very idea of historical fiction.

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