Grenville here rewrites Australian history according to the various visions of her many heroines called Joan. These historic Joans speak in the traditionally silenced voices not only of women but of convicts, of aborigines, and of the working class. Intertwined with their tales is the compelling story of a more contemporary Joan , torn between society's expectations and her own sense of her heroic destiny. This contemporary storyline frequently echoes the historic, suggesting that women's strength is found not in their individual achievements but in the affirmation of a collective feminine tradition. Imaginative yet poignant. Julia Duffy, CUNY Graduate Sch. Lib.
The brilliant Australian author of the award-winning Lillian's Story achieves something utterly original and moving in this fanciful feminist epic. Male readers need not cringe, however: Joan (who appeared briefly in Lillian's Story ) may be thoroughly unconventional, yearning for a more striking role in life, but her sympathies embrace all of humankind, and the portrait of her good but unimaginative husband Duncan is profoundly moving and perceptive. Chapters from Joan's own life are interspersed with imagined moments in Australian history in which Joan plays a role: as Captain Cook's proud wife in the discovery of the continent, as a female convict first to set foot in Botany Bay, as an Aboriginal woman, as dozens of unsung, hardworking and invisible women who toiled skeptically alongside the men who starred in, and wrote, the history books. Funny and sometimes piercingly poignant, Grenville offers an unblinking and unsentimental view of life's underside; her book is an often poetic treasure. (November)