The Floating Garden

Author shotNews Flash!! Emma Ashmere’s short story collection DREAMS THEY FORGOT will be published by Wakefield Press in June 2020 – and is on the Sydney Morning Herald’s Books to Read in 2020 and Readings Books to Get Excited About.

Emma’s debut novel The Floating Garden was shortlisted for the 2016 Small Press Network MUBA prize.

Emma Ashmere The Floating Garden Cover

The Floating Garden      

Sydney, 1926. The residents of the tight-knit Milsons Point community have been thrown into chaos by the building of the harbour bridge.

Ellis Gilbey, landlady by day, gardening writer by night, is set to lose everything.

As her world begins to crumble, Ellis’ retreats into the past when she was forced to flee her father’s drought-ravaged farm, and landed in the unlikely care of self-styled theosophist and charismatic orator, Minerva Stranks.

Ellis is jolted back to the present when wealthy the artist Rennie Howarth knocks on her door seeking refuge from her stifling upper-class life. But can Rennie’s flighty plans offer lasting sanctuary? Or will Ellis be cast out once again? As the future looms uncertain, the past stays uncannily in pursuit.

Evoking the hardships and the glories of 1920s Sydney, this novel tells the little-known story of those evicted by the coming of the famous bridge. Peopled by misfits, bohemians, charlatans, and fly-by-nighters, The Floating Garden is about shedding secrets, seizing second chances, and finding love amongst the ruins.

Buy The Floating Garden book and ebook here.

Emma Ashmere The Floating Garden Cover


“…a beautiful meditation on grief, guilt, and regret, set against the backdrop of Milsons Point, Sydney, 1926.” Judges’ report 2016 Most Underrated Book Award..

“…evocatively portrays both the difficulties and the sense of promise in the post-war era… at times it reminded me of Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet.” ⋆⋆⋆⋆ (four stars) Books+Publishing

“…beautifully detailed… finely crafted…an elegy for the forgotten….a subversive counter-history to the tumult of rapid progress.” The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Read the full review here.

“I enthusiastically recommend this book … a new type of historical fiction.” ⋆⋆⋆⋆ (four stars) MD Brady’s US blog: Me, You and Books.

“This captivating debut… 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.” ⋆⋆⋆⋆ (four stars) The Advertiser.

“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 shadowy dangers that lurk in the cramped dark streets… Without idealising poverty, Ashmere depicts this Sydney as a place for the marginalised and eccentric.” Lisa Hill (Top 10 Books 2016) ANZlitlovers

“Ashmere does for the underprivileged of 1920s Sydney what Ruth Park did for the 1950s in Harp in the South… both exude warmth and sympathy for their motley crew of marginalised characters, and both are valuable for their social history.” Whispering Gums.

Hear an interview with Kate Evans about her debut novel The Floating Garden on Radio National’s Books & Arts program. 

More reviews of The Floating Garden here.

The Floating Garden follows the fortunes of the unforgettable Ellis Gilbey, the highly-strung artist Rennie Howarth, the charismatic theosophist Miss Minerva Stranks, and the delicate Kitty Tate. A beautifully written debut novel. Jesse Blackadder, author of The Raven’s Heart and Chasing the Light


Emma Ashmere’s subtle, wry storytelling takes the reader inside 1920s Sydney… it is the story of those women who dared to want more than society offered them. Sarah Armstrong, author of Salt Rain and His Other House


A NOTE about the cover of The Floating Garden. ‘The Bridge’ (1930) was painted by South Australian artist, Dorrit Black. See more about her remarkable life and work here: Rescuing the Reputation of Early Australian Modernist Dorrit Black

Read an extract of The Floating Garden here

Oil on canvas artwork by Delma Corazon titled Memento

‘Memento’ – oil on canvas by Delma Corazon

Emma Ashmere has worked as a researcher, tutor, bookseller – and  as a cook on film sets, an isolated cattle station, Sydney cafés, London pubs, and an art school in the south of France. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Adelaide and a PhD on the use of marginalised histories in fiction from La Trobe University Melbourne, and is a recipient of the QWC/Olvar Wood award. Her short stories have been widely published including in The Age, Overland, Review of Australian Fiction, and Commonwealth Writers Magazine adda. She was shortlisted for the 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Award, the 2019 Newcastle Short Story Prize, the 2018 Overland/NUW Fair Australia Prize. Her short story collection DREAMS THEY FORGOT will be published by Wakefield Press in June 2020 – and is on the Sydney Morning Herald’s Books to Read in 2020 and Readings Books to Get Excited About. She lives in northern New South Wales.

Copyright Emma Ashmere © 2015