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 mourninFrom 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....
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Mrs. M Reviews
4★The author explains: “I have focused on a socially narrow stratum of early colonial Australia, and neglected the blood and the gore, the pain and the suffering, that became the dominant metaphor for colonial Australia.. . . I have attempted to say something true about Australian history, or at least to challenge an abiding falsehood — the vision of the first gulag — with that of a social revolution.”The author says he woke one morning hearing a woman’s voice saying she'd paid the boatman with a bag of cherries, but he had no idea where the voice or thought came from. He’s built an entire novel around that inspiration, and it’s a pretty good read. Another intriguing inspiration he mentions in the note at the end was his own personal love triangle as a model for the one between Macquarie, Mrs M and the Architect. I have to say, for a man, he gets into the mind of Mrs M very well. To me, she thinks and sounds like a woman of her time. She’s headstrong and smart but also a bit of a charmer and a flirt. The tension between the three of them is very well done. [I suspect HE may have been the Mrs M in his own life story, but don’t mind me – just a guess. And I don’t think that had anything to do with his expressing her personality so well, either.]This is not historical fiction, in the usual sense of the term. Slattery has taken real people and completely fabricated a yearning infatuation between them. The author says there is much truth in the historical setting, but the relationships are made up. So you can enjoy it as a romance, which is really what it is, and pick up a bit of Australian history while you’re at it. Lots of good characters and side stories.This takes place in the early 1800s during Governor Lachlan Macquarie’s time presiding over the convicts, soldiers and emancipated members of the young Sydney colony. His much younger wife, Elizabeth, was with him, and Francis Greenway was, indeed, the convict architect (the Architect) who designed so many of Sydney’s well-known buildings. The three of them oversaw the changes from a penal colony to a thriving community.But the author takes pains to explain in his note and in an interview I heard that he has invented the sighs and long glances and covert meetings between the wife and the Architect. That’s the fun of the story, of course. His descriptions of the birds and bush and of the windswept Scottish islands are lovely. [ I’m just not moved by unruly curls escaping bonnets or eucalyptus eyes smiling , old fogey that I am.]Most Sydneysiders are aware of and may have visited Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair, a large stone seat carved from rock in The Domain on the south side of Sydney Harbour. The novel has it that the Architect fashioned it and that she felt a strong connection to him when she was there reading and gazing out to sea, which was often. That last part seems to be true, but probably not thinking about him. Still, makes for a good story, eh? “He has been as good as his word. My promised chair is now complete. Rather more bench than chair, it requires a few cushions for perfect comfort, though nothing more than that. Commanding a fine view of the harbour, my retreat is shaded by a fig tree twisting into a parasol of dense dark leaves, some of which turn persimmon yellow in dry weather.Governor Macquarie was many years her senior and was often busy fighting off political foes who thought he was far too easy on the convicts and Aborigines and hard on the soldiers. They wanted all the power and glory for themselvesHis view was that the convicts who were later freed were the powerhouse that was building the country. They were so anxious to better themselves and improve their lot that they worked harder than the soldiers. He acknowledged that the Aborigines had been dispossessed and that the newcomers needed the indigenous skills and experience to survive in this very different land. The soldiers were not always thrilled with their Antipodean posting and I wonder how much it cost to keep them in rum.The political argybargy, to use the technical term, sounds a lot like today’s. Disagreement on how best to manage ‘jobs and growth” and whom to trust. Not much changes. An interesting aside about Greenway, courtesy of Wikipedia:“Greenway's face was shown on the first Australian decimal-currency $10 note (1966–93), making him probably the only convicted forger in the world to be honoured on a banknote.”If I have a reservation about this, it’s that I worry that people will eventually believe the love story along with the historical facts. The affair often portrayed between Elizabeth the First and Essex, for example, had a lot of evidence to support the rumours, whereas Mrs M and the Architect is more of a “what if?” imagining. But it's an entertaining one.I think this will find a lot of fans, and I thank NetGalley and HarperCollins for the preview copy from which I’ve quoted.
A factionalized account of the life of Elizabeth Macquarie the story has insights into the life of the early settlement of Sydney Cove, and the devastating effects of the Big report on the reputation of Lachlan Macquarie. The relationship between Mrs M and The Architect ( Francis Greenway) I found a little unbelievable. It was well-written, but for some reason didn't ring true for me - especially the fairytale ending.
I really liked this book. Governor Macquarie influence on the development of the colony in the early nineteenth was very interesting and made more so with the author’s fictional account of Mrs Macquarie’s relationship with the architect.
Luke Slattery has lofty ambitions for this novel – his first, though he’s written other books. In the Author’s Note at the back of the book, he writes that he wants Australians to be proud of their convict beginnings rather than embarrassed, and he wants to subvert the notion of colonial Australia as a ‘gulag’, a perception, he says, that arose from the popularity of Robert Hughes The Fatal Shore (1986). Slattery says that Hughes’ vision of early colonial Australia is flawed:It is certainly at odds with the reality of the earliest years, when convicts were told after the first muster at Sydney Cove that they could find their own lodgings and fare for themselves as long as they turned up for work at the appointed hour. Afterwards they were permitted to work for piece rates, or goods in kind. Only the worst – and particularly repeat offenders – manned the iron gangs. The sites of secondary punishment, such as Port Arthur and Moreton Island, might have been a truer reflection of the book’s title. But Sydney Cove, for the vast majority of convicts who landed there – 160,000 in all – offered a path out of poverty, pollution, oppression and the bleakness of a European winter. It wasn’t so much a benighted as a blessed shore. (p.311)But, he says,Australians have largely failed to appreciate the moral force of their society’s creation, so blinkered are they by the shame of it, by the convict stain.[…] France knew Liberty as a slogan. Early Australia experienced it as a lived and felt reality, as a release, en masse, into freedom from penal servitude. (p.306)Slattery’s intention in writing this book is to draw attention to the idealism of the Macquarie years and the reaction these ideals of criminal redemption and sub-proletarian betterment provoked from a quite vicious Tory Government. To achieve this, he has chosen not to write non-fiction, but created instead an imagined portrait of Elizabeth Macquarie, wife of Governor Lachlan Macquarie, and her affectionate partnership with the architect who designs many of the government buildings in early Sydney and Parramatta. Mrs M is written entirely from Elizabeth’s partisan point-of-view, showing the Macquaries as a benign partnership based on shared ideals of rehabilitation and social justice as a deterrent to crime.To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2017/11/28/m...
Think Mrs Macquarie is a really interesting subject for a novel but can't help feeling this is more a hybrid text - a strange mix of historical research and imagination. Not sure it is truly successful.
Interesting 'imagined history' of Elizabeth Macquarie's time in Australia as wife of Governor Lachlan Macquarie. The prose was poetic, which was sometimes enchanting and at other times cloying. Slattery's imagining of Elizabeth was the heart of the book.
#Australian PhD novel
I liked this book enough to want to finish it but I found that it needed a lot more depth, and more story, I found there was little emotion in this book.