Nance was a week short of her sixth birthday when she and Frank were roused out of bed in the dark and lifted into the buggy, squashed in with bedding, the cooking pots rattling around in the back, and her mother shouting back towards the house: Goodbye, Rothsay, I hope I never see you again!
When Kate Grenville’s mother died she left behind many fragments of memoir. These were the starting point for One Life, the story of a woman whose life spanned a century of tumult and change. In many ways Nance’s story echoes that of many mothers and grandmothers, for whom the spectacular shifts of the twentieth century offered a path to new freedoms and choices. In other ways Nance was exceptional. In an era when women were expected to have no ambitions beyond the domestic, she ran successful businesses as a registered pharmacist, laid the bricks for the family home, and discovered her husband’s secret life as a revolutionary.
One Life is an act of great imaginative sympathy, a daughter’s intimate account of the patterns in her mother’s life. It is a deeply moving homage by one of Australia’s finest writers.
‘Awork of imaginative sympathy, it is as successful as it is audacious …Clear, authentic and utterly engaging … Provides a microcosm for thechanges taking place on the world stage in the period spanned’
‘Losingyour mother is a turning point in everyone’s life…Kate Grenville has translatedthat revelation into a totally mesmerising story which reads not like a memoir,but rather like a perfectly paced novel.’
‘What a difficult thing it must have been to write, but what a treasure [Grenville] has given us…Evocative and fascinating, this brave and heartfelt tribute will appeal to anyone interested in their own family story, Australian history, or the lives of women.’
‘Real life painted with with an almost fictional verve, it’s an intensely engaging portrait of a world in flux.’
‘The writing glides, egoless, through this one life that adapted to the massive changes of a century…I closed the book with regret, wanting more.’
‘[A] social history written with the storytelling skill of a novelist.’
‘A very brave and loving recount of a daughter’s view of her mother’s history…A powerful piece of nonfiction, important equally for its capacity to capture one life as its ability to summarise that of an entire generation of women.’
‘There’s no denying that the story she has to tell makes for a compelling read…Kate Grenville’s recapitulation of her mother’s voice is in the end very moving.’
‘A gift to countless readers who will recognise their own experience, or their mother’s experience in these pages.’
‘With her customary elegance and warmth, Kate Grenville has lovingly documented her mother’s life, capturing the aura of the times. I thoroughly enjoyed her engrossing story.’
‘A tribute to a generation of tough Australian women whose stories have mostly been considered unworthy.’
‘The sharing of this story of resilience, persistence and a mother’s enduring love will resonate across generations.’
‘Once again, Grenville treats her readers to a brilliant read.’