Canongate signs 'explosive' Kate Grenville novel

Canongate signs 'explosive' Kate Grenville novel

Canongate will publish the "explosive" new novel by Booker-shortlisted Australian author Kate Grenville.

Editor-at-large Ellah Wakatama Allfrey acquired UK and Commonwealth rights excluding Australia, New Zealand and Canada from Michael Heyward at Text Publishing in Australia to the novel entitled A Room Made of Leaves.

In the book’s introduction, Grenville “describes, with tongue firmly in cheek, discovering a box containing some old papers: a diary written by Elizabeth, the widow of John Macarthur, soldier, entrepreneur and rogue, in the first years of the colony of Australia”, Canongate said. Subsequently A Room Made of Leaves “walks a tightrope between the true and the invented”.

“It is a tale of adventure and struggle, of secrets and lie,” the publisher said. “Elizabeth Macarthur tells an explosive story that’s like the dark side of a Jane Austen novel—what it really means to marry a stranger, and to find a way to steal power in a world that gives a woman none." 

The synopsis reads: “Raised by a widowed mother and doting grandfather on a sheep farm in Devon, young Elizabeth is headstrong, independent and curious about the world. In one moment of reckless rebellion against the expectations of society, she finds herself pregnant and forced to marry Captain Macarthur. Trapped in a loveless marriage, Elizabeth travels with her husband and young son to the settlement at Sydney Cove.

Grenville is the author of novels including the international bestseller The Secret River (also published by Canongate), which was awarded the Commonwealth Prize and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. She also wrote The Idea of Perfection (Picador), winner of the Orange Prize; The Lieutenant and Lilian's Story (both published by Canongate). Her work has been adapted for the stage and cinema and it widely translated.

Wakatama Allfrey said: “It’s a huge privilege to have joined Canongate just as Kate completed her new novel. I have long been a fan of her work and was struck by the profound contemporary resonance of this new book. It’s a powerful example of how history, in the hands of a gifted novelist, can provide a total immersion in stories of the past, while also prompting us to interrogate the duty we have to acknowledge a more complete, and ultimately truer, telling of that past towards a better future.”

Heyward added: “We could not be more excited about publishing A Room of Leaves. It’s a new triumph... This novel will change the way we think about the earliest days of the colonial experience in Australia: about the role of women, the power of conversation, and the possibility of love. It’s a book which dramatises the past in order to speak directly to our times, to our aspirations, and the debates that matter most to us.”