'Mrs M’ is the second wife of Lachlan Macquarie, governor of New South Wales from 1810 to 1821. Luke Slattery explains in his Author’s Note the impulse behind his novel – Elizabeth Macquarie’s voice coming to him, romantically, in a dream. It was not quite unprompted. He had been visiting her home territory in the Hebrides, having already written a short book about the Macquaries’ last years in New South Wales (The First Dismissal ). But this book is different; and it is Slattery’s first novel.
Mrs M is an ‘imagined history’, but a skeleton of historical fact is fleshed out in it, with a few inconvenient ribs missing, and some joints slightly realigned. The Dromedary, the ship on which the Macquaries travelled to New South Wales, was not a convict ship, with or without a certain convict architect aboard. Slattery’s Elizabeth suffers from unfruitful pregnancies, as the historical woman did, but Slattery dispenses with the son she actually did bear, along with the real-life architect Francis Greenway’s wife. His Elizabeth is a woman of decided opinions and strong feelings who has grown up solitary and proud as a member of the Campbell clan. She is ruled not so much by social constraints and mores as by her own system of alliances: loyalties she has formed based on deliberate choices she has made.