Elizabeth Gould was a prolific illustrator of birds during the 1800s. She was married to John Gould, a famous ornithologist during the time when the general public was infatuated with information about exotic bird species.
Melissa Ashley spent years undertaking research for the novel ‘The Birdman’s Wife’ – a meticulously researched and intimate historical fiction finally giving Elizabeth Gould’s work it’s proper place in natural history.
The novel traces Elizabeth’s intense relationship with John Gould from their very first meeting. He was a driven and ambitious man and expected much from his wife. Elizabeth struggled for professional recognition and like her modern counterparts, struggled with balancing her work and family life.
‘The Birdman’s Wife’ is historical fiction and will have appeal for those interested in women’s issues, ornithology, and art.
The story covers Elizabeth’s eleven-year career, during which she accompanied her husband on an expedition to Australia, an unusual move for women of the time. Ashley paints a beautiful story and gives the reader a fascinating insight into Elizabeth’s life as a wife, mother and professional illustrator.
Although Ashley’s descriptions of bird species were poetic throughout the book, not being a bird-lover myself, I found the descriptions too much after a while because I would much prefer to see a picture with the text.
Ashley has produced an interesting and thought-provoking read and I am sure ‘The Birdman’s wife’ will delight many readers.
Thank you again to Simon and Schuster (Australia) for providing me with an ARC and I look forward to seeing the colour end papers on the book’s release in October.