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The Floating Garden

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  40 Ratings  ·  10 Reviews
Shortlisted for the 2016 MUBA Prize.
"Beautifully crafted... a subversive counter-history." Sydney Morning Herald.
Sydney, Milsons Point, 1926. Entire streets are being demolished for the building of the Harbour Bridge. Ellis Gilbey, landlady by day, gardening writer by night, is set to lose everything. Only the faith in the book she’s writing, and hopes for a garden of he
Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 2015 by Spinifex Press (first published 2015)
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Lisa Walker
Jul 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is the debut novel by Emma Ashmere. It is set in Sydney in the 1920s, where the arches of the Harbour Bridge are still making their way through the air towards each other. Down below in Milson’s Point, a colony of misfits are losing their homes as construction proceeds.

The Floating Garden interweaves the stories of two women. Ellis is an eccentric who runs a boarding house for women and girls while Rennie is an artistic Englishwoman in an unhappy marriage. When Rennie plucks up the courage
Helen  E Burns
Jul 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The Floating Garden is a tale of two estranged women in the changing landscape of 1926 Sydney. This fine novel is set in a period of Australian history I knew little about. From the first page it was clear I was in the competent hands of a writer who had thoroughly immersed herself in the language and arts, the scandals and perils, of a society that lauded its coming of age with the vision of a bridge. Ashmere seeks out the lives beneath this fanfare, the poor who were living in the shadows, smo ...more
Nov 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Lisa by: Marilyn Brady
Shelves: c21st, australia
It feels a bit as if I am late to the party in reviewing Emma Ashmere’s The Floating Garden because it was reviewed on release in 2015 by Sue at Whispering Gums and by Jessica White on her blog – but in fact I was very quick to buy a copy after I read about it first at Marilyn Brady’s Me, You and Books. It was partly that I was captivated by the cover art: it’s Dorrit Black’s ‘The Bridge’ (1930) which so brilliantly captures the subject matter of the novel: the irony of a bridge being built to u ...more
Apr 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
What an original and inspiring new voice this wonderful novel has.
It is set in Sydney, in the 1920s, amongst the dust and rubble of the raising of the bridge.
Ellis is enigmatic, eccentric, lonely and yearning for a stable future as her house is in jeopardy due to the building works.
Her surroundings and companions are instantly engaging.
Her journey through the streets and amongst the politics and arts of the time is varied, humorous and inspiring.
It is a picture of who we Australians are and wher
Oct 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This novel's beautiful poetic language gives rich descriptions of a city in flux. I particularly like the way it takes in the layered lives of the underclass - all the characters come to life on the page. Art, politics, history, Arcadian dreams, love, and the esoteric are threaded delicately throughout, drawing the story along through the determination and resourcefulness of the women.
Sarah Armstrong
Apr 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What a treat it was reading this book. I felt transported to a fascinating time in Sydney's history and was completely engaged by the narrative. Such intelligent, subtle, witty writing, and a wonderful heroine in Ellis. I adored Ellis and would have happily spent much more time in her company.
Carolyn Mck
Jul 12, 2017 rated it liked it
The cover for this novel is the well known painting by Dorrit Black of an uncompleted Sydney Harbour bridge. I have a photograph taken by my father with the same uncompleted arch. The Bridge is a Sydney icon now but this novel tells the story of people whose homes were destroyed by its construction. Just as Ruth Park did years ago for the people of Surrey Hills, so Emma Ashmore shows a warm sympathy for her struggling poor though they are not idealised.

Ellis is the main character and I particula
The Floating Garden was a last minute find to replace my original Read Harder 2017 Task 21, book published by a micropress. I just wasn't into the book I had originally chosen and life is too short to read books you're not excited about, right?

Looking for a late replacement, I just went over to Goodreads and just searched for something that was in the group discussions that I could get my hands on. I know, it's not the best use of the task and probably not entirely in it's spirit, but this has b
Jun 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Loved all the historical detail in this book, especially its emphasis on working-class life in the 1920s. However, I took me a while to care about the characters, and the ending left me feeling things were a bit too neat (in some ways), and in another way, things were oddly unresolved, esp. regarding the character of Rennie.
Aug 30, 2016 rated it did not like it
Disappointed. I had expected a deeper story in relation to the people affected by the building of the Harbour Bridge, instead that was merely a lure to get me in!
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Emma Ashmere's debut novel The Floating Garden was shortlisted for the 2016 MUBA Prize. She was born in Adelaide, South Australia. For over a decade she worked as a cook on film sets, an isolated cattle station, London pubs, Sydney cafés, and an art school in the south of France. Her short stories have won awards and have been widely published in journals and newspapers including The Age, Review o ...more
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