Restless Dolly Maunder

Kate Grenville

Restless Dolly Maunder
Text Publishing
30 April 2024

Restless Dolly Maunder

Kate Grenville

Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2024

Dolly Maunder was born at the end of the nineteenth century, when society's long-locked doors were starting to creak ajar for women. Growing up in a poor farming family in country New South Wales but clever, energetic and determined, Dolly spent her restless life pushing at those doors.

Most women like her have disappeared from view, remembered only in family photo albums as remote figures in impossible clothes, or maybe for a lemon-pudding recipe handed down through the generations. Restless Dolly Maunder brings one of these women to life as someone we can recognise and whose struggles we can empathise with.

In this compelling new novel, Kate Grenville uses family memories to imagine her way into the life of her grandmother. This is the story of a woman, working her way through a world of limits and obstacles, who was able - if at a cost - to make a life she could call her own. Her battles and triumphs helped to open doors for the women who came after.


We know Kate Grenville is one of Australia’s most acclaimed authors, and that she is an astute researcher. She is a writer who can fill in the gaps. If she has the facts, then she will shape them into something heartbreakingly beautiful. She is a writer who can bring a time, a place, and a person to life again. It was only a matter of time until Grenville wrote about her grandmother.

I would have liked to go to the horse races with Grenville’s grandmother, Dolly Maunder, and to have heard her stories and her laugh. I would have liked to share a beer with her, perhaps in one of her own public houses, or even go for a drive down the coast of NSW with her in her Fiat. This fearless and impatient woman with a meagre education had a gift for getting on with things, despite circumstances and history. She could see clearly how class and religion had an impact on the kind of life available to people like her: ambitious, clever women who were held back by men’s beliefs. The story of Dolly’s life takes us through the two World Wars, the Depression, through the rise of free education and women’s rights. Grenville imagines the anguish and the anger felt by her tenacious grandmother, who was born on a sheep farm, but wanted – needed – more.

This is an Australian story of a white woman holding on to her spirit for dear life. It is worth mentioning before you even pick up the book that Grenville does, in her postscript, apologise that this is a story of white Australia, and she pays homage to the First Nations peoples of this land.

If you loved reading about Nance, Grenville’s mother, in One Life, then read this. If you love to imagine what it was like to be in Australia back in that era, then here is your weekend read. Grenville’s quiet and insightful prose makes this book a joy and an inspiration to read. Dolly, like her granddaughter, is a trailblazer. Clearly, it runs in the family.

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