2021 - Shortlisted
A Room Made of Leaves challenges history in ways that Kate Grenville has made her own in the Australian literary lexicon. Using the conceit of a secret memoir — the work of Elizabeth Macarthur long hidden until it is ‘discovered’ by the author — Grenville crafts a moving and witty account of Elizabeth Macarthur’s experiences of life in the colony. In Grenville’s bold, feminist portrayal, Elizabeth emerges from the shadows of her domineering husband, John Macarthur, as a force to be reckoned with: a woman of distinctly modern sensibilities whose intelligence, cunning, pragmatism and resourcefulness enable her to make the most of her less-than-ideal circumstances. A novel of ‘true’ and ‘false’ stories, A Room Made of Leaves points to some of the most interesting and challenging questions about how the past may be read.