In her latest work of historical fiction, bestselling author Tea Cooper does a brilliant job of bringing to life the intriguing tale of Mary Greenway, wife to feted colonial architect Francis Greenway.
The Talented Mrs Greenway takes us from the grand estates of Bath in England to the burgeoning vitality and filth of colonial Sydney, as we follow the travails of the enigmatic Mary Greenway – wife, mother, architect, and forger.
In Cooper’s experienced hands, Mary Greenway’s story takes centre stage and jumps off the page with refreshing lightness. By the time Mary steps into the maelstrom of Sydney Port she has three children at her skirts, and high hopes of a new beginning, despite having little money and a husband in irons. After all, the sudden death of her sadistic first husband has given her freedom and Francis Greenway, her second husband, is an architect of some promise, under the protection of Admiral Phillip himself.
Mary is a woman of great resource and an even greater creative passion. She soon sets about moulding a life for her family from the unpromising clay of this new colony. She does this with a determination fired in equal parts by guilt for her disastrous past action that nearly brought ruin to them all, and desire to see her true calling realised.
When she’s befriended by Elizabeth Macquarie it seems fate is finally smiling on her with the promise of a better life in her grasp. But fate is a difficult mistress and with past secrets to keep, and betrayals on the brink of discovery, the stakes are higher than ever. With Mary’s grip on this new life slipping, will her past lies come back to haunt her?
Tea Cooper is a prolific author of historical fiction who has cemented herself as a master storyteller. If you’re new to Cooper’s books, then there’s the equal thrill of her previous bestsellers to explore which include The Butterfly Collector, The Naturalist’s Daughter, The Cartographer’s Secret, and the USA Today-bestselling The Woman in the Green Dress.
The Talented Mrs Greenway is a beautifully woven tale that will transport you to the wild streets of early Sydney Town and sweep you up in Mary Greenway’s world. I was delighted to read this because I’d learnt about her husband Francis in school, and my grandparents lived opposite the Windsor Courthouse, which he designed. I’d never considered the woman behind the man who helped shape colonial Sydney architecture. Now I’ll never look at his many buildings in the same way.
Mary is an enigmatic woman whose story is brought to vivid life here. The novel asks, whose hand really shaped Sydney? Who is the talented Mrs Greenway? These questions are answered through Cooper’s meticulous research, compelling prose and, as always, superb storytelling. Mrs Greenway is an intriguing figure whose hardships bring out her strengths and determination.
Fans will rejoice at another signature Cooper tale, rich with historical fact, a crafted narrative of intrigue and a hint of romance. She once again puts a fascinating woman at the forefront of history – I loved this.