Lilian's Story, Paperback Book
5 out of 5 (1 rating)


Shielded from emotional and physical abuse by layers of fat, Lilian struggles to escape a suffocating existence in the home of her tyrannical Victorian father and her elegant but ineffectual mother.

Madness, cruelty and sexuality permeate the family's upper-crust Australian world.Lilian Una Singer starts life at the beginning of the twentieth century as the daughter of a prosperous middle-class Australian family.

She ends it as a cheerfully eccentric bag-lady living on the streets, quoting Shakespeare.

This book traces the progress of her life's journey, and why she made the choices she did.

She's a person large in spirit as well as body, who wants to invent her own story, rather than allow it to be invented for her.

Life presents her with many obstacles including the sinister advances of her father - but in spite of this she succeeds.

Triumphantly she makes her life her own, savouring every moment with the reminder that 'everything matters'.


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Lilian’s Story is Kate Grenville’s first novel. Lilian Una Singer was born on the first day of 1900 and we follow her life’s journey through childhood, maturity and into older age. Grenville weaves a tale around a figure whom all of us have encountered and probably tried to avoid (and whom some of us may even encounter daily), the “bag lady”, the mad woman who seems to talk to herself in the street or on the bus/train/tram. She presents a highly plausible history for Lilian which helps explain how an eccentric young woman from a middle-class family becomes a Shakespeare-quoting bag-lady. Along the way, we watch Sydney changing during Federation, two World Wars and a Depression. Lilian tries to make her own decisions in life and ultimately brings a sort of happiness to others by being the type of person they can look at, remark upon and tell their own stories about. Grenville’s descriptions are vivid; her characters, compelling and convincing; her dialogue, credible. Perhaps Lilian’s Story will make the reader look at the eccentric bag-people in another light. An excellent read.

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