Celebrating Women who Write History.

Please meet Lauren Chater:

About Lauren Chater:
Lauren Chater writes fiction. After working for many years in a variety of media roles, including stints at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Diplomat magazine, she turned her passion for reading and research into a professional pursuit. In 2014, she was the successful recipient of the Fiona McIntosh Commercial Fiction scholarship. In addition to writing fiction, she established The Well Read Cookie, a blog which celebrates her love of baking and literature. She lives in Sydney with her husband and two children. The Lace Weaver, her first novel, was published by Simon & Schuster in April 2018. Her second novel, Gulliver’s Wife was published in 2019.

The Lace Weaver 

Each lace shawl begins and ends the same way – with a circle. Everything is connected with a thread as fine as gossamer, each life affected by what has come before it and what will come after ~ The Lace Weaver.

The Lace Weaver is a powerful story of war told through the experiences of women. Beautifully written, the novel touched my heart and, long after I finished the book, left me thinking of two unforgettable images. The first image was that of a delicate shawl spreading over the shoulders of a woman, a woman burdened with sorrow, oppression and the fight for survival, not simply the fight for her own survival, but also that of the people she loves. The second image is that same shawl being pulled through a wedding ring, with the hope it will re-emerge triumphantly in its full glory. The shawl is the work of one individual woman, but its creation births through the agency of women who come together, sharing their skills and expertise, and the stories they tell one another. The finely woven threads of the shawl become stories in themselves, linking women from the present, and down the generations. They are threads of faith and love – of belief in the continuation of life.
In 1941, the people of Estonia are desperately struggling to survive the terrible subjugation and oppression of Stalin’s Russia. It is an oppression little hiding its intention to inflict genocide on the proud Estonian people. Then World War Two sees Russia pushed out by Germany – and the people of Estonia hope for better times, only to discover that one hard battle for survival is exchanged for yet another.
Chater tells the story of this time and place through the point of views of two different yet similar young women: Katarina and Lydia. Katarina is a proud Estonian and gifted shawl maker. Living on a farm with her parents, farmers forced to supply the occupying forces with the fruits of their labour, leaving very little for their own subsistence, Katarina must surmount tragedy and work out ways to keep the threads of her existence, and that of others, from fraying beyond repair.
Lydia is the daughter of a powerful and tyrannical Russian leader and his Estonian mistress. Wearing the treasured shawl of her mother, she runs away from the cold, brutal man she does not know is her father, leaving Russia to go to Estonia – pulled by the memories of love and her dead mother’s heritage.
Katarina and Lydia, who soon rejects her unwanted Russian blood for her Estonia birthright, bond in a deepening sense of sisterhood during a time of great heartbreak – both of them suffering great loss and witnessing the worst of what humans can do to one another.
All through the novel, the intricate and delicate Estonia shawl is used as a compelling writing device to bring together the threads of the story, symbolizing the strong connection between the women in the story, and women everywhere. It also symbolizes the fragility of life; life tested but which can still emerge unbroken and magnificent.
The Lace Weaver is impressive, powerful and skilfully told anti-war novel from an extremely gifted writer.

Gulliver’s Wife

She went to bed and dreamed she was lying in a garden. It was night time, the moon a glowing orb. The air hummed with bees as it was daytime and the ants were busy at work. She heard them chewing, rhythmical chopping as they broke down old leaves and trees for earthworms. Strange flowers bloomed overhead, exploding white petals and yellow pollen. Everything felt new and sacred, a different world to one that came before – Chater, Gulliver’s Wife.

Chater effortlessly takes the reader into a symbolic tale of birth, death and rebirth, a story woven through the reconstructing the past through giving life to characters birthed from another writer’s imagination. Anyone who reads literature would know of or have read the tale of Gulliver Travels. This novel constructs a story by giving voice to the imagined wife and daughter of Gulliver, Mary and Bess – the two major players of this work.<

The story opens to Mary thinking herself a three-year widow, and working as a midwife to support her family. It is a profession she wants to do, and has wanted to do since girlhood – and there is a sense of relief and accomplishment in the story’s first pages that her life is no longer emboldened to anyone other than herself. Marriage has not brought her security or happiness, only years of erosion of trust and heartache. So much heartache she fears to risk marriage again, even to the man she truly loves. But then her husband is brought back into her life, telling a fantastical story of his time in a world of tiny people.

Gulliver may be the fictional character we remember in literature, but his story only forms a backdrop to this story of women doing what they can to survive in a world controlled by patriarchy. With Gulliver’s return, Mary, his wife, struggles everyday to surmount her life while coping with the demands of a self obsessed, mentally ill opium addict – a man whose morality has been eroded to such a point he steals from his own wife and children.

Mary is not only devoted to her two children, but embraces motherhood as the essence of her being. Motherhood comes with pain and sorrow – especially when you have a daughter see-sawing between childhood and adulthood, a daughter determined to reject her mother for this image she has built up in her mind and her heart of her father. It is an image which proves as fantastical as the stories produced by his opium illusions.

The mother and daughter relationship drawn in this novel is one that many mothers will be able to relate to – and take hope in. Many daughters do indeed grow up to see the ‘wonder’ of their own mothers.

While the characters in this story flesh out characters already fictional, the world they live in is a very much fleshed out and believable London of the early 18thcentury. Chater’s thorough research is wonderfully woven into the fabric of this beautifully told story. Life is harsh and dangerous – especially for those of the female sex

Fiction and fact is fused together in such a way the reader remains totally engaged in the story. As with the finest historical fiction, this novel of women’s lives also speaks to our own times – when women still navigate a world where the master narratives are such they are so often blamed for the violence that happens to them simply because they are women. But women – past and present – always survive to re-write a better and more equal world for not only their daughters, but their sons too.

‘…there will be other challenges,” he says. “You know that.’

‘I do. But I have faith. When the surgeon’s guild comes after us, we will be meek. When they threaten us, we well submit. In public. In private, we will do what we have always have done: we will share our knowledge and thrive.”

Gulliver’s wife is exquisite, empathetic and engrossing storytelling from an extraordinarily gifted writer.

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