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An Unconventional Wife: The Life of Julia Sorell Arnold
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Mary Hoban
An Unconventional Wife: The Life of Julia Sorell Arnold by Mary Hoban at Abbey's Bookshop,

An Unconventional Wife: The Life of Julia Sorell Arnold

Mary Hoban


Scribe Publications

Biography: literary;
Feminism & feminist theory


320 pages

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The page-turning biography of an Australian woman who refused to bend to the expectations of her husband and her time.

Julia Sorell was an original. A colonial belle from Tasmania, vivacious and warm-hearted, Julia's marriage to Tom Arnold in 1850 propelled her into one of the most renowned families in England and into a circle that included Lewis Carroll and George Eliot. Her eldest daughter became a bestselling novelist, while her grandchildren included the writer Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, and the evolutionary biologist Julian Huxley.

With these family connections, Julia is a presence in many documented and famous lives, but she is a mostly silent presence. When extracted from her background of colonial life, extracted from the covers of marriage and family life, her story reveals an extraordinary woman, a paradox who defied convention as much as she embraced it.

What began as a marriage born of desire soon turned into a relationship riven by discord. Tom's sudden decision to become a Catholic and Julia's refusal to convert with him plunged their lives into a crisis wherein their great love for each other would be pitted against their profoundly different understandings of marriage and religion. It was a conflict that would play out over three decades in a time when science challenged religion, when industrialisation challenged agrarian forms, when democracy challenged aristocracy, when women began to challenge men. It was a conflict that would shape not only their own lives and that of their children, but also touch the lives of all those who came into contact with them.

Told with the pace, depth, and psychological richness of a great novel, An Unconventional Wife is a riveting biography that shines a shaft of light on a hidden but captivating life.

'In An Unconventional Wife, Mary Hoban has given us an inconvenient heroine- a woman hobbled by her times, champing at the bit, going nowhere but telling us everything. Pieced together through impeccable research and told with all the urgency and intrigue of a soap opera, the story of Julia Sorell demands recognition of - and respect for - a woman who would otherwise be lost to history. Utterly charming.' -Clare Wright 'An exceptional exercise in factual delving and a feat of imaginative sympathy.' -Gideon Haigh 'An Unconventional Wife is superbly written, and skilfully draws on a number of diverse sources, compensating for a lamented lack - an intimate diary kept by Julia herself. Mary Hoban has got to the kernel of this story, since she has correctly conceived it as an exercise in the recuperation of women's history.' -Jim Davidson, Australian Book Review

By:   Mary Hoban
Imprint:   Scribe Publications
Country of Publication:   Australia
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 153mm, 
ISBN:   9781925713442
ISBN 10:   192571344X
Pages:   320
Publication Date:   April 2019
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Mary Hoban is a Melbourne-based writer and historian. Her first book was a history of Melbourne?s celebrated Queen Victoria Market. She has also authored, co-authored, and edited various textbooks, papers, and journal articles in Australian and Asian history and cultural studies. For some years she was employed in the Philatelic section of Australia Post as a writer, editor, and researcher for the nation?s postage stamps, where she wrote and edited books on subjects ranging from Christmas Island to the Antarctic, from royalty to rugby. In 2012 she was awarded the inaugural Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship to write the biography of Julia Sorrell Arnold.

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