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From one of Australia’s foremost journalists, Luke Slattery, comes a bravura literary achievement, a rich and intense novel of an imagined history of desire, ambition and dashed dreams, and a portrait of one passionate, unforgettable woman – Elizabeth Macquarie.
Elizabeth Macquarie, widow of the disgraced former Governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie, is in mourning – not only for her husband, but the loss of their shared dream to transform the penal colony into a bright new world. Over the course of one long sleepless night on the windswept isle of Mull, she remembers her life in that wild and strange country; a revolution of ideas as dramatic as any in history; and her dangerous alliance with the brilliant, mercurial Francis Greenway, the colony’s maverick architect.
A stirring, provocative and thrilling novel of passion, ideas, reforming zeal and desire.
’In this moving, intricate novel, Luke Slattery does more than reveal these multifaceted historical figures – Macquarie, Elizabeth and convict architect Francis Greenaway – and the complex vectors of love between them. He brings to life the radical moral largeness at the founding of Australia – a vision often forgotten under the brutality of the convict and dispossession narratives. The Macquaries fought for emancipation, fairness, and forgiveness as crucial components of justice, in the face of the cramped and brutal British vision for this place. Those dreams had their price, but we benefitted hugely from their legacy and – in our age of econocrats and technocrats – are grateful to be reminded of them. Every love story has at its heart a vision of inherent human worth in the beloved; Slattery’s achievement is to render, subtly and powerfully both a human love story, and a love story to the nation.’ Anna Funder, author of All That I Am
’A remarkable early 19th century heroine comes alive for us in this story: we share Mrs M.‘s thoughts and feelings in almost uncanny fashion. Luke Slattery’s debut sets new standards for the Australian historical novel.’ Nicolas Rothwell
’It is, at its core, the story of Slattery’s most extraordinary creation: Mrs M, whose real-world counterpart was the wife of Lachlan Macquarie, fifth governor of the colony of New South Wales (1810-21). … There is a kind of clarion certainty to her, both in how she understands things as well as in how she is presented on the page … I think readers will be swept up by this creation. The narrative would grab me with moments of exquisite cadence and perfect emotional truth … Told in Elizabeth’s voice, and seen through her eyes, the sensuous descriptions of her Scotland and her Sydney – as well as her own inner world – rise off the page with a poet’s perfect pitch.’ The Australian
’Saul Bellow says somewhere that in fiction sentences should be ‘charged’ – something should quietly beat through them. When one begins reading this is what you should listen for – imaginative confidence, a sense of sureness. This applies to historical fiction as much as any other. You don’t ask, ‘Is this true to history?’ You ask ‘Is this true to itself?’ Luke Slattery’s Mrs M is imaginatively true from beginning to end.’ Barry Oakley
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