By Christina Baker Kline
Historical Fiction – Adult Fiction
This story follows the journey of three women in the 1840s who are exiled to Australia from three different places and for three very different reasons. Much of this is based on facts, and some characters are based on actual people. It shows the ugly truths and injustices that were a part of Australia’s early days but also the kindness and resilience required of those who were sent there and became a part of its early society.
Why I picked this book
I was leaving for vacation and didn’t have a chance to pick up the books I had on hold at the library. I stopped at a Target of all places and browsed my options. Since I was headed to a beach and this book mentioned a sea voyage (and Australia), it caught my attention. When I read that it was historical fiction about women prisoners, I purchased it.
What was disappointing
History reveals there are many disappointing moments where humanity is concerned. I wish certain things didn’t happen the way they did, but these disappointments did not cause me to dislike the story at all.
Why I kept reading
Despite the sadness and injustices that layer upon each other throughout this story, I kept reading because, just like the characters, I never lost hope. I also believe accepting history’s ugliest moments is essential to understanding how to live in the present.
This is a book of fiction, but there are many truths, and some of these people actually existed. Reading this was akin to reading a Dickens novel such as Little Dorrit or Oliver Twist. The stories are dark and sad, but the author keeps a light on for you that guides you through safely and shines on just enough good things to keep you invested. Christina Baker Kline opens up the pages to her readers in such a way that you cannot let go. In fact, you want to reach in farther and would help if you could. I will definitely be reading other historical novels of hers.
This is not for you if you tend to read historical novels for the romance and elegance of bygone days. If you would like to step back in time and experience what it was like to be taken from your home and exiled across the world, then this is your adventure.
“Fiction can do what history doesn’t but should. It can tell the story of ordinary people. It’s the history of private life, the history of obscure men.” – Jill Lepore.