REVIEW: Melissa Ashley’s ‘The Birdman’s Wife’



The Birdman’s Wife
Melissa Ashley

A woman overshadowed by history steps back into the light . . .

Artist Elizabeth Gould spent her life capturing the sublime beauty of birds the world had never seen before. But her legacy was eclipsed by the fame of her husband, John Gould. The Birdman’s Wife at last gives voice to a passionate and adventurous spirit who was so much more than the woman behind the man.

Elizabeth was a woman ahead of her time, juggling the demands of her artistic life with her roles as wife, lover, helpmate, and mother to an ever-growing brood of children. In a golden age of discovery, her artistry breathed wondrous life into countless exotic new species, including Charles Darwin’s Galapagos finches.

In The Birdman’s Wife a naïve young girl who falls in love with an ambitious genius comes into her own as a woman, an artist and a bold adventurer who defies convention by embarking on a trailblazing expedition to the colonies to discover Australia’s ‘curious’ birdlife.

An indelible portrait of an extraordinary woman overlooked by history – until now.

Affirm Press



What AusRom Today thought:

Detail rich, and perhaps rather heavy at times, The Birdman’s Wife is overall a rather compelling read which highlighted the historical tendency for women to be relegated to stand behind their husbands regardless of how much they contributed to his fame. Throughout the novel it is clear that Melissa Ashley’s research is comprehensive and extensive and this extends from her depictions of life in the 1800’s in both London and Australia, life as a woman, wife, and mother during these times, the discoveries made by husband John Gould, and Elizabeth’s life as a professional illustrator and wildlife pioneer in what was essentially a man’s world.

A fascinating read that will endear itself to those interested in historical fiction, issues faced by women historically (arguably still today), ornithology, and the creative arts.

A simply stunning debut novel from a novelist, who given how little Elizabeth Gould was acknowledged in her lifetime, has posthumously shone the spotlight on Gould celebrating her personal and professional achievements in a touching and considered manner.



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