Kate Grenville

Being out of print is like moving back in with your parents – it’s not usually a sign that things are on the up. But fortune’s wheel turns with scant regard for merit or effort, so it must be a relief for writers when their publishers decide to ‘celebrate their continuing contribution to Australian literature’ with a re-release of their back catalogue.

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Kate Grenville’s new novel, her first in almost a decade, is dedicated to ‘all those whose stories have been silenced’, for which, as its ‘memoirist’–narrator heroine is Elizabeth Macarthur, we might read ‘women’. Did she – wife of the notorious John Macarthur, wool baron in early Sydney – write what Grenville’s publishers call ‘a shockingly frank secret memoir’? In her ‘Editor’s Note’, Grenville tells, tongue firmly in cheek, of there being discovered in the ceiling of a historic Parramatta house under renovation a long-hidden box containing that memoir. In an ‘Author’s Note’ at the book’s end, we are assured that ‘No, there was no box of secrets found in the roof of Elizabeth Farm. I didn’t [as she claimed at the beginning, in her Editor’s Note] transcribe and edit what you’ve just read. I wrote it.’ Perhaps those who thought otherwise failed to observe the book’s epigraph from Elizabeth Macarthur – ‘Do not believe too quickly’ – though whether those words were inscribed by the historic Elizabeth or by Grenville’s fictional one may be a matter for discussion. Apropos of previous books, Grenville the novelist has had disputes with historians about matters of fiction and fact.

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Just before the publication of her novel Dark Places in 1994, Kate Grenville said that she was thinking about her next book, ‘a heart-warming old-fashioned love story’. Well, The Idea of Perfection – and isn’t that what all love stories are about? – is that love story, though it warms both heart and head, for the bliss it affords is not so much visceral as aesthetic, even architectural.

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Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'The Secret River' by Kate Grenville

Kerryn Goldsworthy
Monday, 04 March 2019

Kate Grenville is a brave woman. For some years now, the representation of Aboriginal people by white writers has been hedged about by a thicket of post­colonial anxieties, profoundly problematic and important but too often manifested as hostile, holier-than-thou critique, indulging, at its most inept ..

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Kate Grenville’s publisher wasn’t keen on her writing a book about fragrance. He would have preferred another novel from the author of ...

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Reading Australia: 'Lilian's Story' by Kate Grenville

Peter Craven
Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Kate Grenville’s Lilian’s Story is one of the great Australian novels of the last thirty years. When it was first published in 1985, it was immediately hailed as a masterpiece. The original cover carried a recommendation by Patrick White, Nobel laureate and the greatest writer of any kind Australia has produced. White said ...

Open Page with Kate Grenville

Australian Book Review
Friday, 27 March 2015

I’ve just finished a book about my mother’s life. She was typical of her times in some ways, remarkable and even eccentric in others. When she died ten years ago she left a mass of bits and pieces of memoir. I’ve used them to try to tell the story of a working-class woman riding the waves of change through the twentieth century.

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Bernadette Brennan reviews 'One Life' by Kate Grenville

Bernadette Brennan
Thursday, 26 March 2015

Kate Grenville’s mother, Nance Gee (née Russell), was an extraordinarily resourceful, resilient, and interesting woman. Born in 1912 to ill-matched, working-class parents and surviving a childhood lacking in stability and opportunity, she went on to become an inspirational mother, businesswoman, and teacher. Some years after her death in 2002, Grenville began sor ...

Kate Grenville

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Kate Grenville (1950–) is an award-winning Australia author of fiction, memoir and non-fiction, Kate’s first publication was the short story collection Bearded Ladies (1984). She has gone on to publish a total of thirteen books in the last thirty years including her most recent one, One Life (2015). Several of Kate’s works have been adapted f ...

Sophie Cunningham reviews 'Sarah Thornhill' by Kate Grenville

Sophie Cunningham
Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Sarah Thornhill is the third book in Kate Grenville’s loose trilogy depicting life in the early days after Australia’s settlement. Like the previous novels, The Secret River (2005) and The Lieutenant (2008), Sarah Thornhill fictionalises actual stories of settlement. In the process, Grenville transforms our history into someth ...