An Evening with Kate Grenville

Last Wednesday night I had the experience of hearing one of my favourite Australian authors, Kate Grenville, speaking about her new non-fiction book, One Life: My Mother’s Story, at the Coventry Library in Stirling thanks to Matilda Bookshop. The book is basically about her mother’s life from her birth in 1912, through her time working as a pharmacist and her marriage to a solicitor, in a time when women rarely started their own businesses or worked in pharmacy while trying to raise three children.

A few years ago I saw Kate speaking at Adelaide Writers’ Week and then, as now, she was a pleasure to listen to. She has a wonderful sense of humour and is open and forthcoming with her writing experiences. The following are some of the topics Kate discussed:

  • It took 27 drafts to finish this book. 27!! I knew Kate’s process involved doing lots of drafts but I imagined this book wouldn’t have taken so many given that her mother had left her a great deal of source material (approximately 100,000 words which Kate trimmed to approximately 70,000). Apparently it took some time to find the right ‘voice’.
  • Completing the book took 8 years, but in that time she also wrote 2 novels, so it was not a solid 8 years as she would put this work aside and come back to it when she could.
  • The source material (her mother’s writing, recordings, etc.) is likely to be donated to the National Library for archiving.
  • How resilient her mother was and how much she followed her dreams despite the role of women in her day.

The audience sat in silent rapture listening as Kate read some portions from the book, and Kate was kind enough to do some signing before and after the session. I am yet to start reading the book but it’s certainly one I’m looking forward to, as, from the portions we heard, her mother sounds like someone I would love to have known. For a list of Kate’s other books, check out her website.

Have you read any of Kate Grenville’s books?


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