Emma Ashmere

writer | author | novelist

Category: Reviews

More reviews of The Floating Garden: Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Echo, The Advertiser etc

Hello there, Am very pleased to see a review by Cameron Woodhead made it into the Short Fiction section of today’s Sydney Morning Herald and also The Age.
THE FLOATING GARDEN – EMMA ASHMERE – SPINIFEX PRESS AUD $26.95
Transporting us to Sydney in the 1920s, The Floating Garden takes place in streets set to be demolished to make way for the famous Harbour Bridge – a neighbourhood populated by working-class folk, bohemians and shadier characters. Among those in line for eviction is Ellis Gilbey, a landlady who moonlights as a gardening columnist (under the pseudonym Scribbly Gum). Confronted with losing everything she has, Ellis relives her flight to Sydney as a teenager, where she was taken in by a theosophist called Minerva Stranks. Just as all of Ellis’ lodgers have taken their leave, an artist arrives, seeking sanctuary from her abusive husband. Emma Ashmere’s debut is a beautifully detailed historical novel, full of tenacious and likeable women asserting themselves through guile. Finely crafted, The Floating Garden is at once an elegy for the forgotten and a subversive counter-history to the tumult of rapid progress. Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/short-fiction-reviews-peter-stamm-emma-ashmere-sarah-armstrong–russell-guy-20150511-ggx3n4.html#ixzz3aFQ0S2PZ

A Review in the Northern Rivers Echo:
The Floating Garden By Emma Ashmere
Reviewed by: Lisa Walker
The Floating Garden
is the debut novel by Northern Rivers local, Emma Ashmere. It is set in Sydney in the 1920s, where the arches of the Harbour Bridge are still making their way through the air towards each other. Down below in Milson’s Point, a colony of misfits are losing their homes as construction proceeds. The Floating Garden interweaves the stories of two women. Ellis is an eccentric who runs a boarding house for women and girls while Rennie is an artistic Englishwoman in an unhappy marriage. When Rennie plucks up the courage to leave her abusive husband, she finds a temporary home in Ellis’s guesthouse, which is about to be demolished. Both women look to each other to provide security – Ellis needs money, while Rennie needs a bolt-hole to hide out from her husband. As her Milson’s Point home disintegrates, Ellis relives her escape to Sydney at the age of sixteen. Her unlikely saviour was the charismatic, scheming theosophist, Minerva Stranks. She also hints at a troubled liaison in the past with Minerva’s protégé, the fragile Kitty. I loved so many things about this book, but the characters were especially delightful. Ellis has many secrets, not least of which is her anonymous authorship of a controversial gardening column under the name of Scribbly Gum. The flamboyant Rennie hails from a life of privilege and has a hard time adjusting to her new circumstances in the poorer part of town. Her effort to blend in and cope with her situation provides a subtle touch of humour. I also enjoyed learning more about theosophy – a spiritual belief system which was very popular in the 1920s. An early review has compared this book to Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet and there certainly are some similarities. Both books explore the wider events in society through the lens of the people affected and both focus on a working class group of colourful individuals. Like Tim Winton, Emma Ashmere has a fine hand with exuberant Australian types. The author has a PhD focusing on the use of marginalised histories in fiction and her novel does a superb job of bringing this fragment of our past to attention. The Floating Garden is a beautifully written, gently humorous and highly detailed slice of history. It also has an absorbing storyline which kept me turning the page. photoNREchoreview

A Review in the Adelaide Advertiser 5-7 June 2015
Reviewed by SUE GOULD **** (4 stars)
This captivating debut by Adelaide-born writer Emma Ashmere…teems with charlatans, eccentrics and those doing it tough in a time of hardship and prejudice. Yet Ashmere weaves a sense of hope and redemption as her characters seek to rediscover their true selves.

Jessica White’s review of The Floating Garden
With its pellucid prose and descriptions of gardens and early 20th century spiritualists, I loved this novel… It focuses not on the arches of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but what happens at its feet. The setting suggests that we should not always focus on dominant, obvious narratives, because what happens in their shadow is equally interesting…This sumptuous book was a joy to read.
Read the full review here.

Review by Lisa Hill ANZlitlovers – The realisation in prose of 1920s Sydney is as unforgettable as the characters.  I loved the vivid descriptions of the market and the ferries; the sights and scents of lush plant life; the mud, slush and sordid decay of the houses; the sun-drenched views of the sea and the sky;  the shadowy dangers that lurk in the cramped dark streets and the temptation of oblivion in the deep waters of the harbour. Without idealising poverty, Ashmere depicts this Sydney as a place for the marginalised and eccentric… ANZlitlovers

A review in the Byron Shire Echo by Sarah Armstong
Emma Ashmere’s writing is subtle and lyrical, beautifully crafted and wise. The best books seem so complete, have such integrity, that we can’t imagine them existing in any other form, and we forget that they may have taken many drafts to get to this point.
Read the full review here.

A review on Whispering Gums by Sue
…What I particularly enjoyed about the novel is that Ashmere does for the underprivileged of 1920s Sydney what Ruth Park did for the 1950s in Harp in the south. They are very different books in terms of their narratives and themes, but both exude warmth and sympathy for their motley crew of marginalised characters, and both are valuable for their social history.
Read the full review here.

A review on Booklog for Charlotte

It’s impressive that these disparate narratives come together so naturally to enrich each other. What a wonderful book:

Read the full review here.

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First Reviews of The Floating Garden

The first review of The Floating Garden has just appeared on MD Brady’s US blog Me, You and Books.
Here’s a few lines of what she had to say:

4 Stars. “The Floating Garden is a fine example how fiction can be useful in expanding our understanding of the past.  It is also simply an engaging narrative.  I would love to know more about her thoughts and her process for creating this. I enthusiastically recommend this book to other readers, especially those who care about Sydney, and those interested in a new type of historical fiction.”

You can see the full review here:
My thanks to MD Brady.

And – Colleen from The Ravens Parlour Bookstore has kindly posted this review on their facebook page:
4 and 3/4 Stars
“This is a very polished debut novel from Australian author, Emma Ashmere. In 1926 the Sydney Harbour bridge is under construction, and entire streets of houses are being demolished in the name of progress. For Ellis Gilbey, this means the end of her way of life as a landlady as she is forced to look for rental accommodation elsewhere. With only a week to go before her house is to be vacated, Rennie Howarth knocks on her door seeking refuge for one night, and this chance encounter sets in motion a chain of events neither could have forseen. With these two female protagonists, from very different backgrounds, this novel brings to glorious life an interesting chapter in Australia’s history. A worthwhile read.”

Thank you Colleen.

The Floating Garden in The Hoopla’s Books to Read 2015 & Readings’ Most Anticpated Books for 2015

Meredith Jaffe literary editor of The Hoopla has put together a list of books to read for 2015. The Floating Garden is listed for May.

Outlook for Books: Very Fine Indeed

A new year means a whole new bevy of books to immerse ourselves in. In the second half of the year, there will be a new Jonathon Franzen, Purity (September) plus in November there will be new novels from Geraldine Brooks, Charlotte Wood and Kate Morton. There are more great books coming than we have space for here, so for now, here are a round dozen to whet your appetite…

See more here: http://thehoopla.com.au/outlook-books-fine-indeed/

And Readings Books & Music have included The Floating Garden on the cover of their February catalogue as one of the Most Anticipated Books of 2015. See also their calendar of Australian books to look out for in 2015.
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To order The Floating Garden see more here.

Review in Books+Publishing

Books+Publishing – Thursday, 18 September 2014

The Floating Garden

(four stars ⋆⋆⋆⋆)

Set in Sydney in the 1920s, The Floating Garden beautifully and evocatively portrays both the difficulties and the sense of promise in the post-war era. Through the eyes of Ellis and Rennie, we witness the changes in the tight-knit community of Milsons Point as Sydney’s iconic harbour bridge is built. The novel begins as landlady (and secret gardening writer) Ellis sees the last of her lodgers depart as the demolishers rapidly approach. Ellis appears to be trapped in the crumbling house by inertia and memories. Rennie, on the other hand, appears to have it all—a wealthy husband and a career of sorts as an exhibiting artist. Their worlds collide when Rennie knocks on Ellis’ door seeking refuge from her abusive husband….  This is Emma Ashmere’s first novel after a series of award-winning short stories. There is something quintessentially Australian about this book, and at times it reminded me of Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet.

Review by Rachel Wilson