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The House of Fiction: Leonard, Susan and Elizabeth Jolley
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The House of Fiction: Leonard, Susan and Elizabeth Jolley

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  111 ratings  ·  23 reviews
Abandoned at the age of four, Susan Swingler had no contact with her father Leonard or with her stepmother, the revered Australian writer Elizabeth Jolley, until the age of 21. In this startling part memoir, part mystery, Susan explains why she and her father were kept apart while telling the story of her quest to find him. As she painstakingly traces and documents clues t ...more
Paperback, 322 pages
Published May 1st 2012 by Fremantle Press (first published January 5th 2012)
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3.48  · 
Rating details
 ·  111 ratings  ·  23 reviews

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May 01, 2012 rated it it was ok
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 rated it really liked it
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
Maree Kimberley
Nov 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
For around 20 years I'd counted Elizabeth Jolley as one of my favourite authors. She still is, of course, and is one of those authors whose books I dip back into from time to time to learn about the power of words, and how less is more.

When I first heard of The House of Fiction a few years ago, I know I wasn't alone in being shocked by this story. Jolley had (I know now) a carefully constructed persona of the mild, somewhat staid English woman, a self-effacing writer who was flattered by her suc
Margaret Williams
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An extraordinarily moving family saga told sensitively and without malice or bitterness.
"I think that a child's love for a parent must take an enormous amount to destroy, and despite everything I had learned, I couldn't let go of this childish love".
Who, I wonder, is the real Elizabeth Jolley?
Jul 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 24, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Stefani Akins
Jan 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Jennifer Rolfe
Oct 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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.
Jan 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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.
Cass A
May 10, 2015 rated it it was ok
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...
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.
Mar 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014, book-club
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.
Mar 30, 2014 rated it liked it
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.
Helena Aarons
May 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
Ayshe Talay-Ongan
May 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Helen Windle
Dec 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
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!
May 16, 2012 rated it liked it
Was heading towards four stars but it went on and on and on in the end.
Anni Webster
Dec 16, 2012 rated it liked it
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 rated it really liked it
Fascinating read & very enjoyable. Has prompted me to read more Elizabeth Jolley, & from a different viewpoint.
Bernadette Owen
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Sep 05, 2017
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Lynsay Tervit
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Oct 24, 2014
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Feb 07, 2013
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Nov 15, 2015
Nicole Piper
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Dec 16, 2017
Rachel McColgan
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Aug 06, 2016
Gayle Powell
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Nov 24, 2015
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