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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Review: Becoming Mrs Mulberry

Title: Becoming Mrs Mulberry
Author: Jackie French

Publisher: 8th March 2023 by HQ Fiction Aus

Pages: 495 pages

Genre: historical fiction, mystery

Rating: 5 cups


The once impoverished medical student Agnes Glock is now the fabulously wealthy Mrs Mulberry. Her estate in the mountains is magnificent, a haven for those too ravaged by the Great War to cope with the society that first condemned them to battle and which now shuns them.

The War has, however, stolen Agnes's chance to graduate as a doctor, as well as the fiance she adored. Her husband, Douglas Mulberry, remains shellshocked and unable to speak. Their scandalous marriage is a farce, an act of kindness to keep Douglas's fortune from his uncle's grasp.

A chance visit to a circus brings about a mystery in the form of a fairylike child whose guardians claim was brought up by dingoes. The child cannot speak and seems deformed. But Agnes is inexplicably drawn to her and believes she can be cured.

The decision to save the child will bring Agnes's lost fiance into her life again, as well as awaken the love of her husband who finds his voice as the three try to solve the mystery of the 'dingo girl'.

Agnes has put aside her own life and the dreams she once had. But now she has choices, with the main question the hardest: Who is Mrs Agnes Mulberry?

My Thoughts

Australian author Jackie French has written a fantastic piece of historical fiction in her latest work, Becoming Mrs Mulberry. Set in the 1920s, it is a story that touches on many heart wrenching themes as a consequence of WWI. There are many entertaining characters and several plot lines that make for a highly engaging read. 

‘The whole four years of being Mrs Mulberry seemed to be rising in rebellion. She had never wanted anything of the Mrs Mulberry life …’

Firstly, Jackie presents the lasting repercussions of those who experienced WWI and their attempts to re-enter society. The physical and psychological impacts both men and women suffered from and how they struggled to cope not only in adjusting to society but also how society treated them in many ways like freaks. So sad. The community that was established in this book was wonderful with Douglas Mulberry’s tale is deeply moving.

‘Everyone here has learned to be kind, thought Agnes, an island of compassion to each other in a world that would, at best, turn its face away.’

Branching off from this is also the realistic portrayal of the life for a woman of intelligence. Jackie presents the real struggles faced by Agnes in everything from fashion, to her role in a marriage, to wishing for so much more such as becoming a doctor. I also found the love triangle between Agnes, Huw and Douglas to be portrayed as a sensitive, mature and truly moving depiction of the situation. Finally there is the tale of Diane/Dingo girl - rescued from a circus and suffers from physical and psychological problems. Who is this girl? Was she raised by dingos? Can she fill a void for Agnes and Douglas and help bring them together? 

“Agnes, I d-didn't realise ….”

“That I am totally unsuitable to be a Mrs Mulberry?”

Jackie French brings to life the Australian bush with this strong cast of characters who form such a supportive community. Exploring the impact of war from a personal, family and community level with the plight of many often seen as outcasts. Agnes is such a strong and endearing female lead who readers are sure to cheer for through all her doubts, dreams and final destiny. Lovers of historical fiction must not miss out on this truly encapsulating and inspiring tale. 

‘It was time to cast off the rags of her previous life and enjoy some of the privileges that came with being Mrs Mulberry.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.


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