Published on August 6th, 2023 | by Tim Chuma
Restless Dolly Maunder Book Review
Summary: Not quite a biogpraphy even though it is about a real person. An excellent look into a life of someone who lived through some big events but as with most women at the time is mostly overlooked.
Kate Grenville tells the story of her grandmother but in the voice of her grandmother and not as a biography. Most women from this period of history have vanished and are only remembered in the one photo they would get or as mementos handed down through the generations.
There is a short section that the author includes at the end talking about her actual grandmother and what she remembers of her when she lived with the family at the end of her life.
Having not read a book from this author since I was in high school in the 1990s I was looking forward to this one. I had heard that Secret River had a lot of fans but I never read it. Remembering a book I had read almost 30 years ago now tells you how big an impact this author had.
Having gone back through old newspapers you can see it was never “the good old days”, the time between the wars was quite dark and scary and there were a lot of products aimed at women in old newspapers including the “wash your undies” ads but the language directed towards women was quite blunt and you would never talk to people that way these days.
When Dolly Maunder was born in the late 19th century the parents decided what there children would do including continuing school and even had a say of who they were going to marry. Dolly always had bigger dreams but found herself railroaded into a marriage under false pretences due to her mother trying to solve two problems at once.
Even though she realises her marriage is a sham she decides to stick it out as women could not own property or even have a bank account in those days and a man was needed. After a disastrous run of years on their farm with the last straw being a tornado Dolly convinces her husband to take a chance running a small shop closer to Sydney and then a string of hotels.
Life has its ups and downs until they manage to retire early but then become sick of the inactivity and decide to run the grand old hotel where they originally had their honeymoon. Historical world events in the form of the Great Depression and then World War II eventually show their hand but Dolly survives even if her family does not appreciate it. She has to be quite hard on her own children so they do not end up in her situation especially her own daughter.
This does remind me a lot of Joan Makes History but in this case it is based on an actual person. Although there is no way of knowing that this is what they actually thought and why they did the things in their life that they did it is an interesting look into an earlier time and what people did to survive.
I would recommend this one if you are into historical accounts that are a lot more compelling than the usual letters or those based on actual correspondence as people would never say what they really meant if they knew anyone was going to read it or it would become public.
Format: Hardback, 256 pages
Publisher: Text Publishing
Publication date: 18 July 2023
Categories: Biography & Memoir, Fiction