Elizabeth Speller | Granta

Elizabeth Speller

Elizabeth Speller read archaeology and classics at Cambridge, followed by a postgraduate degree in ancient history. She is a poet and author of four non-fiction books, including a biography of Emperor Hadrian, companion guides to Rome and Athens and a memoir, The Sunlight on the Garden. She has contributed to publications as varied as the Financial Times, Big Issue and Vogue and has published a novel. She lives in Gloucestershire.


The Sunlight On The Garden

Elizabeth Speller

In 1880, Ada Curtis bore Gerald Howard the first of several illegitimate children. Ada was a housemaid, the daughter of a Lincolnshire butcher. Gerald was her employer and the son of a once-grand family now obsessed with its own threadbare nobility. They thereby sent their descendants tumbling chaotically into the twentieth century. More than a century later, inspired by the stories, reinventions and half-truths in her family’s past, Elizabeth Speller – Gerald and Ada’s great-granddaughter – set out to trace the criss-crossing lines of their history, and, as she recovered from a mental breakdown, she began to wonder if that history offered any explanation of what had happened in her own life. The search brings vividly to life the passions and hopes of four generations, amid tales of wealth inherited and lost, eccentricity, sexual indiscretion and madness. Ultimately, this book will remain in the memory as a beautifully realised sequence of portraits of mothers and daughters.