The Floating Garden

*** The Floating Garden has just been short-listed for the Most Underrated Book Award 2016**

‘a subversive counter-history… finely crafted’ Sydney Morning Herald
‘a captivating debut’ The Advertiser
‘beautifully and evocatively portrays the post-war era’ Books + Publishing
‘an engaging narrative… a new type of historical fiction’ Me, You & Books
‘a very enjoyable book’ Whispering Gums


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 familiar world begins to crumble, so do Ellis’ defences against the  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 would-be 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 who faced upheaval with 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 in your area for AUD$26.95 here.

You can listen to Emma talking to Kate Evans about The Floating Garden on Radio National’s Books+ program here.


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. The Sydney Morning Herald & The Age.


The Floating Garden beautifully and evocatively portrays both the difficulties and the sense of promise in the post-war era…  There is something quintessentially Australian about this book and at times it reminded me of Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet.                                           ⋆⋆⋆⋆ (four stars) Books+Publishing, Sept 2014.


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 enthusiastically recommend this book to other readers, especially those who care about Sydney, and those interested in a new type of historical fiction. ⋆⋆⋆⋆ (four stars) Me, You & Books.


The Floating Garden is above all a surprising love story, full of turns, transformations and ‘slips of the heart’. A wise, tender and beautifully detailed novel. Gail Jones, author of Five Bells


A charming and lyrical story of masculine ambition outwitted by feminine fruition. 1920s Sydney, in all her raffish grandeur, flourishes on every page.   Mandy Sayer, author of Love in the Years of Lunacy


 Emma Ashmere has written a compelling and lyrical novel of a rough and ready Sydney that is in the throes of rapid change; a town where the spiritual is necessary but corrupted, and where sexual lives remain hidden even from those in the grip of desire. Sophie Cunningham, author of Geography and Bird


The Floating Garden is a beautiful and quietly enthralling work. Unfurling in gardens, the rooms of spiritualists, wealthy suburbs and the growing shadow of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, it skilfully renders the range and complexity of women’s lives. Ashmere’s deft evocation of 1920s Sydney and her luscious descriptions of the natural world signal a writer who is sure of her craft, and who will undoubtedly continue to flourish. Jessica White, author of A Curious Intimacy


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

Copyright Emma Ashmere © 2015