It always intrigues me when an author takes facts – in this case, that Elizabeth Macarthur was the wife of John Macarthur and they both emigrated to New South Wales in the early days of the colony – and applies the ‘what if’ question.
In this case, Kate Grenville asks: what if Elizabeth had written a secret memoir? What would it say?
The Room Made of Leaves purports to be that memoir.
It’s a clever novel that made me wonder ‘what if’. What if some of the story was factual and the rest pure fiction? Which parts were true and which were made-up?
It doesn’t really matter. Kate Grenville’s reimagining of Elizabeth Macarthur’s life is entertaining and engrossing. That’s really all we can ask of a novel, surely?