A Room Made of Leaves
2021 - Winner
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.
In this work we see Kate Grenville at the height of her authorial skill as she champions the unofficial history of women’s lives lived in the margins. She explores what it means, and what it costs, to find a place of one’s own. A triumph of language and imagination, A Room Made of Leaves speaks to today in its examination of female agency, reminding us that how we see the past is never singular or fixed.