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The House of Fiction: Leonard, Susan and Elizabeth Jolley

3.41  ·  Rating Details  ·  91 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
Susan Swingler is the step-daughter of one of Australia’s most revered writers – Elizabeth Jolley. Abandoned by her father Leonard at the age of four, Susan had no contact with the Jolley family until they found and reclaimed her at the age of twenty-one. Why they were kept apart is the subject of this startling new memoir.

The House of Fiction tells the story of Swingler’s
ebook, 1, 322 pages
Published May 1st 2012 by Fremantle Press (first published January 5th 2012)
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(showing 1-30 of 198)
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Jun 12, 2012 Beejay rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
Yeah. 8 May - advised that I am to receive a First Reads copy of this book, which is one I would have bought anyway. How good is that? Can't wait for this one.


So, here is my review of The House of Fiction, by Susan Swingler:

Elizabeth Jolley is one of those names in literary circles, particularly here in Western Australia. She is right up there with Tim Winton, with Patrick White, with Helen Garner, giants of Australian literature. To not appreciate her work is to be, in the
Triecia Gibney
Jan 24, 2015 Triecia Gibney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Susan's story stayed with me long after I started reading another. Susan's very moving account describes years of deceit perpetrated by her father and step mother seemingly so her father would not have to face criticism by his family. As a result of the secrecy surrounding her father's affair and subsequent abandonment of his wife and child Susan was denied access to her extended family and all the love that could have been shared throughout her childhood. Susan writes beautifully and generously ...more
Jul 27, 2014 Katrina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 25, 2016 Fiona rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a really fascinating memoir by Elizabeth Jolley's step daughter. Susan Swingler grew up in England with her mother, longing for the father who had left when she was a young child. It wasn't until adulthood that she learned about his life with his second wife, Elizabeth Jolley, and their children (her half siblings). The story is mainly about her journey to try and unravel a web of lies told to her and her family over a lifetime. It's hard to understand the extent of the deceptions, or th ...more
Every family has secrets - it's just a whole lot more interesting when you are reading about the bizarre back-story of a well-known author. This book is partly about Elizabeth Jolley - writer of fiction and, as we discover in this book, creator of real-life fiction which that impacts on the writer of this text Susan Swingler.

In 1967, when Swingler married in England at the age of 21, she received congratulatory cards from an aunt and an uncle she didn't know she had. When she asked about these
Cass A
May 10, 2015 Cass A rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was interested because Elizabeth Jolley used to be a customer at the bookshop I worked at in Perth, and she seemed like a lovely person. But a patron at the library I work at now mentioned there was more to her story, and recommended this book. I found it interesting but a bit laborious to get through...
It was a bit drawn out but having seen a tv show about the story (Australian Story on the ABC) I really wanted to read the book.

It left some questions unanswered as the author herself hadn't felt comfortable in confronting her father to find the truth.

An amazing but very sad true story.
Stefani Akins
Jan 05, 2015 Stefani Akins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I first heard about Elizabeth Jolley, she was nothing more than a character in someone else's story, namely, English professor to Perth musician David McComb. It was long after I'd finished "Vagabond Holes", the anecdotal biography of David and his band, the Triffids, that I even figured out Jolley was not only an author, but a venerated one in quite a few Anglo-Saxon countries (although my home country, Germany, clearly does not fall into this category). I picked up a couple of her books, ...more
Wendy Orr
I was reluctant to read this at first, as I greatly admire Elizabeth Jolley's fiction and didn't want to see an idol toppled. However I thought Susan Swingler's story of discovering the fiction created by her father and stepmother - a fiction that had denied her the chance of meeting any relatives and to some extent denied her very existence – was surprisingly restrained and even compassionate, while being searingly honest about her own emotions. Not all our book group agreed: her reticence and ...more
Helena Aarons
Jun 09, 2014 Helena Aarons rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: past-reads
Elizabeth Jolley was my favourite Australian author and I have read over the years all her books. This book talks about Elizabeth and husband Leonard and their behaviour towards Leonard's first wife and his daughter. I found it an interesting book and an enjoyable read.
Apr 22, 2014 Vanessa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club, 2014
I would probably give this book 2.5 stars but should not really rate it as I did not quite get to the end.
This was the latest from our book club group.
Although I found the story quite intriguing it kept going along at the same pace, not really getting anywhere.
Was probably very theraputic for the author.
Jennifer Rolfe
Oct 13, 2013 Jennifer Rolfe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At age 4 Susan Swingler was told her dad was going to Scotland to find a house for them to live in. He never came back. He went to live with Elizabeth Jolley and his other daughter who was born within 5 weeks of Susan. The plot goes on from there. How Elizabeth Jolley and Leonard Jolley went on to protect themselves from outside criticism is the basis of this story. Susan told it so well with lots of documentation. She focused on her father rather than Elizabeth. Such a well written gripping tal ...more
Jun 22, 2013 Cathy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this powerful and moving memoir - it had all the elements I need to keep me engaged and interested - strong characters, a great story and several well known identities (Elizabeth Jolley to name but one).

We all have skeletons in our family closets, but the Jolley Family secret is a doozy and one so well hidden, it took Susan 40 years to uncover.

A moving, thought provoking novel that has forever changed the way I perceive the works of the late Elizabeth Jolley.
Mar 19, 2016 Maureen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh my goodness, this is a great read. It should have been called Secrets and Lies if Woody hadn't claimed that title years ago. It tells the story of the deceit, lies, fraud, family secrets and inexplicably secretive behaviour inflicted on their families by Elizabeth and Leonard Jolley over many decades.
Leonard's daughter Susan Swingler manages to remain sane as she works through this web of intrigue. An arresting book.
Aug 30, 2015 Toni rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, australian
Fascinating memoir about family secrets. As this one involves a famous Australian author its intriguing to wonder how much of her personal life and the secrets influenced the writing. My only criticism - I thought the author was too balanced and sensitive! I wanted her to be more angry but that's me pushing my values onto the author and expecting her to feel the way I would. Highly recommended.
Helen Windle
Dec 30, 2013 Helen Windle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting biography and a great true story of deception by one of Australia's leading authors - although in the end I think she meant well - it took me 4 days to read it!
Ayshe Talay-Ongan
May 26, 2012 Ayshe Talay-Ongan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such composure and grace in the face of deceit... Yet characters you'd love to hate come across as flawed humans seeking redemption as best they know how. A refined and meticulous work; I'll go read more of Jolley now.
Anni Webster
Dec 16, 2012 Anni Webster rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Average writing, but fascinating story and very brave, respectful and honest account of a life thwarted by family secrets.
Sally Carveth
Mar 10, 2013 Sally Carveth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating read & very enjoyable. Has prompted me to read more Elizabeth Jolley, & from a different viewpoint.
Jan 28, 2013 Anna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Was heading towards four stars but it went on and on and on in the end.
Sean Kennedy
A fascinating story, undermined by some slightly-above average writing.
Mrs. N A Gallagher
Mrs. N A Gallagher rated it it was amazing
Jun 05, 2016
Christine rated it it was amazing
May 21, 2016
Renae marked it as to-read
May 07, 2016
Bookwizz rated it really liked it
May 13, 2016
Trina marked it as to-read
May 03, 2016
Heather marked it as to-read
Mar 26, 2016
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