Wednesday Reads – Lillian’s Story by Kate Grenville


Recently I’ve made a foray into the world of the e-reader and e-books.  Up until now I’ve pretty much stuck to the real deal, weight in your hands kind of books.  This is mostly because I don’t actually own an e-reader and because I get most of my books from the library or borrowed from other people.  I’m not a purest, I have no problems with e-readers, the books are much more reasonably priced and an e-reader is much easier to cart around than actual books, especially if you want to take multiple.  The reason for my trial was because I wanted to read a particular book (not this one) which I couldn’t get from the library but that my sister had on her e-reader.  So she lent it to me for a couple of months and I read a few books on it.  I loved it, so much easier to read in bed, and much better than reading on an iPad.  Think an e-reader might be on my Christmas wish list.  I also explored e-book library catalogues, there are plenty of books, but nothing particularly new and only a limited number that appealed to me, but I did find Lillian’s Story by Kate Grenville….. see we got there eventually!

Years ago I read Kate Grenville’s Secret River, BRILLIANT.  EPIC.  I remember diving head first and in totality into that novel, invested I think you call it.  Well, Lillian’s Story is not Secret River.  It Grenville’s first novel and she clearly learned a lot between the writing of this and Secret River.  That’s not to say it’s a terrible book.  It’s not, but the writing is just no at that same level.  

To give you some idea of the story, the central character, Lillian Singer, is born into an upper middle class family at the turn of the last century.  Her family is dysfunctional in the extreme, yet they have high expectations for their daughter’s ability to marry well and wonder why she turns out so eccentric and socially awkward (also in the extreme).  Her childhood is bleak, full of trauma and cruelty both at home and at school.  To deal with this she lives in a world of Shakespeare and develops an intellect of impressive capacity.  In her early adulthood she turns to university to find her place and finally manages for connect with a number of others, forming friendships she had never experienced before.  As an adult life takes a series of unexpected turns.

I liked Lillian as a character.  She is quirky, extremely intellegent and truly believes in her own grandiosity.  She is going to be great…. at something….. in some way.   And if anyone deserves to be great in their own lives it’s Lillian.  However, as the story progressed I got more and more frustrated at the turns it took.  I needed something a little more light-hearted after some deep and depressing reads and this one didn’t really provide that.  Saying too much more than that will give away the ending so I won’t.  In the end I gave this three stars on Goodreads, but perhaps it would have been more like 2 1/2 if that was an option.  

I’ve just looked at the last four books I’ve read and reviewed.  One about POW on the Burma railway, one on teenagers dealing with cancer, another on the financial and social struggles during the recession of the ’90s and then this one.  Is it any wonder I’ve been feeling a little blue.  Just wait for what’s coming next though, a definite relief from the sads.  

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3 Responses to Wednesday Reads – Lillian’s Story by Kate Grenville

  1. fergie51 says:

    I read this a couple of years ago and it changed my way of thinking when you see ‘special’ people in the street. I love using my mini iPad as an eReader. Only time its not great is sitting outside on the sun or in the bath! Amazon have a daily deal you can subscribe to and sometimes you can be lucky and pick up some good stories for 99c-3.00. I do still love my library and find that I’m leaning towards fiction-ebooks, non-fiction-library.

    • Barbara Good says:

      Yeah, it certainly made me see this particular group of people in a different light too. Now I see them and wonder what their story is.
      The reason I loved the e-reader more than the iPad – aside from the better size – is that it’s not back-lit like the iPad so you can read it in the sunlight. And I found the subtle light much better for reading at night – I never sleep well after using a computer, TV or phone or ipad (I think the light plays with your melatonin levels from what I understand), whereas as reading book a night helps me shut the chatter in my head off and get ready to sleep. I will definitely have to check out the amazon specials – are they good books?

  2. Pingback: What I read in 2014 | The New Good Life

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