This book is a fictional account of Kate Grenville’s grandmother, born at the end of the 19th Century (1881). A formidable woman, who desperately wanted to be a teacher and not have a life of drudgery as a farmer’s wife. Dolly was forced to leave school at 14 and work with her mother in the male dominated household, but she never abandoned her dream of escape to a better life.
Reluctantly, she marries Bert Russell whom she has known since childhood – a born philanderer, but willing to listen to Dolly’s ideas and recognise Dolly’s business acumen. They start a shop and then gradually acquire a boarding house, a pub, and a grand hotel. The pair are successful and make money, but Dolly soon tires of her enterprises and is forever moving on.
The author is consciously reconciling the character Dolly with the personality that her own mother conveyed to her – her coldness and inability to demonstrate physical love to her children.
I found this novel to be fascinating and thought provoking – part biography, part history, and part imaginative fiction.