Review: Elizabeth & Elizabeth by Sue Williams

Title: Elizabeth & Elizabeth

Author: Sue Williams

Published: 5th January 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read January 2021 courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

My Thoughts:

Based on the lives of Elizabeth ‘Betsey’ Macquarie, the wife of Australian colonel governor Lachlan Macquarie, and Elizabeth Macarthur, the wife of a prosperous colonial woolgrower, Sue Williams blends fact with fiction to present an interesting story of adversity, courage, love, and friendship in Elizabeth & Elizabeth.

Thirty one year old Betsey Macquarie arrived in Sydneytown with her new husband, Lachlan, who was to replace Captain Bligh as governor, in December of 1809. Viewing the appointment as an adventure, with her keen interest in architecture, landscaping and social welfare, Betsey had hopes of working alongside her husband to grow the colony.

At the time of Betsey’s arrival in New South Wales, Elizabeth Macarthur, had been living in the colony for twenty years. Her husband John, a Corps officer and successful grazier had been called to England to answer charges of sedition for his role in unseating Captain Bligh, leaving Elizabeth to manage their home farm, three daughters, and Camden Park estate, where they raised their valuable flock of merino sheep.

In this novel Williams conjures a friendship between the two women that overlooks the political enmity of their husbands. Both intelligent, strong, and practical women, Elizabeth and Elizabeth grow to respect and admire one another despite their differences, and become confidantes. The friendship is delightfully rendered by Williams, and permits her to present a well-rounded picture of the ‘Elizabeth’s’ lives, disabusing history’s notion they were simply no more than extensions of their husbands.

History favours the role of men in the building of our nation, but Elizabeth & Elizabeth gives these two women credit for contributions to the betterment of the colony. Williams suggests Betsey was the driving force behind the design and construction of several of Sydneytown’s public buildings, including The Courthouse and St James Church, the ‘Rum’ Hospital, and The Female Factory in Parramatta, and the development of what is now known as The Royal Botanic Gardens. Her support of her husband was also crucial to his many accomplishments as governor, despite the opposition he faced from ‘exclusivists’. Elizabeth Macarthur’s role in developing the family’s wool export business is better recognised today, though her husband continues to garner the lions share of credit. In her husband’s long absence from the colony however, she ably managed their extensive holdings, and oversaw the improvement of the merino flock that solidified their fortune.

Well-written, rich in historical detail and engaging, Elizabeth & Elizabeth is a lovely novel and recommended reading especially for those interested in Australia’s past.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stephanie @ Bookfever
    Jan 13, 2021 @ 00:55:54

    I’m gonna add this book on my wishlist now. It sounds amazing and something I would adore!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  2. Mystica
    Jan 13, 2021 @ 01:11:58

    I like the historical detail because I know very little of Australian history.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  3. Davida Chazan
    Jan 13, 2021 @ 18:48:47

    Yes, this does sound interesting – thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  4. Lexlingua
    Jan 14, 2021 @ 02:14:54

    Interesting parallel between the lives of two very different women. I like the duplication in the title too. The City and the City by China Miéville is SFF, a very different genre, but draws a similar parallel to compare twin cities, with the same repetition in the book title.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  5. Helen Murdoch
    Jan 15, 2021 @ 05:57:03

    I like the idea of placing women (and other marginalized groups) into the historical story and enjoy historical fiction so this one sounds good.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  6. Deb Nance at Readerbuzz
    Jan 16, 2021 @ 04:25:46

    I wonder if this book will make its way over here to the US. We don’t get many opportunities to read historical fiction set in Australia.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  7. Tina
    Jan 17, 2021 @ 07:08:50

    That looks great. I read quite a bit about Lachlan MacQuarie in the 12 book series The Australians by William Stuart Long. It’s a female author but writes under that pen name. I loved the stories in that histoical fiction and I think this one has to go on my list, Off to search for the title.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  8. Trackback: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundayPost #SundaySalon | book'd out
  9. Trackback: Sue Williams' Elizabeth & Elizabeth: Story of determination
  10. Books and livres (@AndLivres)
    Jan 20, 2021 @ 19:50:08

    Just added it to my TBR, I sadly know next to nothing about Australian history…

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  11. Laura Pond
    Feb 26, 2021 @ 05:10:09

    What a lovely title for a book! I haven’t read any historical fiction taking place in Australia. I will have to put this book in my tbr list.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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