Title: The True Story of Maddie Bright
Author: Mary-Rose MacColl
Published: April 1st 2019
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary/Historical
Rating: 5 stars
The bestselling author of In Falling Snow returns with a spellbinding tale of friendship, love and loyalty
In 1920, seventeen-year-old Maddie Bright gratefully accepts a job as a serving girl on the royal tour of Australia by Edward, Prince of Wales. Maddie’s talents soon earn her the respect of Helen Burns, the prince’s vivacious press secretary, and Rupert Waters, his most loyal man, and Maddie is in awe of Edward himself, the ‘people’s’ prince.
What starts as a desire to help her family, devastated by the recent war, becomes for Maddie a chance to work on something that matters. When the unthinkable happens, it is swift and life changing.
Decades later, Maddie Bright is living in a ramshackle house in Paddington, Brisbane. She has Ed, her drunken and devoted neighbour, to talk to, the television news to shout at, and door-knocker religions to join. But when London journalist Victoria Byrd gets the sniff of a story that might lead to the true identity of a famously reclusive writer, Maddie’s version of her own story may change.
1920, 1981 and 1997: the strands twist across the seas and over two continents to build a compelling story of love and fame, motherhood and friendship. Set at key moments in the lives of two of the most loved and hated figures of the twentieth century, in Maddie Bright, a reader will find a friend and, by novel’s close, that friend’s true and moving story.
A magnificent journey seeping decades and continents, The True Story of Maddie Bright is the sixth novel from Australian author Mary-Rose MacColl. In this ambitious and sprawling new tale, Maddie Bright’s incredulous life dazzles in a tale of ambition, success, love, friendship, motherhood and trust. I really loved this book, it definitely challenged me, but I adored the experience.
It is always the way, when you really love a book it is often hard to find the words to express just how much the novel made an impression on you. For me, The True Story of Maddie Bright is one of my favourite novels of the year and it is exactly what I look for in a novel. I have a weakness for multi time frame, historical crossed with contemporary fiction novels with an air of mystery. On first glance I was a little apprehensive about MacColl’s ability to link all the parts of her novel together. With four different timelines, covering 1918, 1920, 1981 and 1997, it did seem like Mary-Rose MacColl was a little zealous. However, with much concentration and investment in this book, I was rewarded so many times over, this was a stunning novel!
There were many aspects that I adored about this novel. One main highlight was the book within the book. We are treated to extracts from a successful war based love story, Autumn Leaves, and its sequel, Winter Skies. The extracts included in the narrative were breathtaking, I would have loved to have read these books as an entire full length novel! MacColl sets up a wonderful air of mystery around this thread of the novel, which occurs in the very beginning of the book and is carried through the whole piece. I loved the mystery around M.A. Bright, the reclusive author, who the reader and pivotal protagonist Victoria Byrd, must unveil. The mystery aspect of the book elevated The True Story of Maddie Bright to another level.
Another key element of the novel that I connected to was the royalty focus. This interest was further strengthened when I learnt of the author’s loose family link via a journalist uncle, who covered many pivotal royal events, including royal tours and the abdication of Edward VIII. This personal inspiration really ignited narrative. MacColl represents David, also known as Edward the Prince of Wales, in both a familiar and unfamiliar light. Having read some previous literature around his character I was surprised by his behaviour. In some respects he was spoilt, entitled, indulged and he suffered from poor social etiquette. On the other hand, he could be incredibly empathetic, apologetic and full of feeling. The gratitude and regret he displayed by talking to the families of many soldiers who lost their lives in the war, really left an impression of me. MacColl also does an excellent job of outlining the comings and goings of a royal tour, the roles taken on by staff and the often gruelling process of being on show to the public. I loved the nod to WA in the Perth based aspects of the Australian royal tour!
We see the ugly side of being the ‘People’s Prince’ or in Diana’s case in the 19981/1997 storyline, being absolutely dogged by the public and paparazzi. This is outlined well in the Victoria Byrd aspects of the novel. Diana is represented from a distance and we see the tragic fallout of a life spent in the public eye. A sense of nostalgia washed over me as I read these sections of the novel. MacColl took me right back to this defining time in our world history and that of the British monarchy. This plays out against Victoria, the other main protagonist in this novel’s experiences as she battles a difficult relationship. MacColl uses this aspect of the narrative to explore the impact of domestic abuse, which is handled with a great deal of sensitivity.
How all the seemingly unrelated strings of this novel come together in one cohesive and satisfying end absolutely amazed me. Mary-Rose MacColl is a storyteller that I hold in the highest regard, to pull this novel off without a hitch is quite a feat, but she achieved it! A last minute twist to the tale contributed to my complete enjoyment of this novel, from the opening to the close. I experienced no dips in attention, despite the weight of the novel. For a five hundred page novel, what a success!
I cannot recommend this novel enough, you do need to set aside both the time and effort but the rewards you are able to reap in terms of the narrative, characterisation, setting and the central mystery is just sensational. The True Story of Maddie Bright is one of those rare books that I didn’t want to bid adieu to, it was simply ravishing.
The True Story of Maddie Bright by Mary-Rose MacColl was published on 1st April 2019 by Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The True Story of Maddie Bright, Mary-Rose MacColl, visit here.
*Thanks extended to Allen & Unwin for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The True Story of Maddie Bright is book #51 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge
Allen & Unwin are kindly offering 3 lucky readers an opportunity to win a copy of The True Story of Maddie Bright. Simply leave a comment below on this post to be entered into this great competition! Good luck!
*Competition open to Australian postal addresses only. Closes Sunday 28th April 2019, 11pm (WST).