An exquisite historical novel about a remarkable man who chose his own path, charming and scandalising others in equal measure. Co-winner of the 2009 Australian/Vogel Literary Award.
It’s the 1880s and Marvellous Melbourne is a lavish and raucous city where anything could happen. Eccentric entrepreneur Edward William Cole is building the sprawling Cole’s Book Arcade and filling it with whatever amuses him, or supports his favourite causes: a giant squid, a brass band, monkeys, a black man whose skin has turned white, a Chinese tea salon, and of course, hundreds of thousands of books. When Edward decides to marry he advertises for a wife in the newspaper, shocking and titillating the whole town. To everyone’s surprise he marries his broadsheet bride and the Arcade grows into a monumental success.
But the 1890s depression hits Melbourne – and Edwar – hard, and the death of one of his children leaves him reeling. Grief, corruption and a beautiful, unscrupulous widow all threaten to derail his singular vision. But it’s not until he visits Chinatown one nigh – and his own deeply suppressed pas – that the idealist faces his toughest challenge. Utopian Man is the story of a man who lives life on his own terms, and leaves behind a remarkable legacy.