I am not normally a fan of historical fiction but this author has completely upended my preconceptions of the genre. This novel is set in 1786 and follows the young girl Mary who has come to London to make something of her life, but instead ends up being arrested for theft. She joins a large group of convicts being sent to Australia to set up a colony there. If you like to read books about strong women, (lets face it who doesn’t!) then this is for you. This woman displays the tenacity, bravery and courage that we all would like to think that we would have if we had be born a couple of centuries ago. (*shudders at the thought of no internet*)
The character development in this novel is absolutely flawless, not all of the decisions and choices that Mary makes are something that anyone reading it could agree with, especially considering the world in which we live in. But Pearse has written such vivid depictions of the deplorable surroundings and situations in which Mary is in, that you can empathise because the realistic imagery draws you in. I felt that I was actually on board the ship and could smell the awful smells and feel that burning need to escape from this gruesome experience. As a result, the depravity that Mary sinks to, is acceptable and strangely admirable in terms of courage.
One thing that Pearse does well in her novels is showing the divide between men and women as it used to be, and particularly the struggles of women. In this novel, when they land on the beach to begin creating the colony, Mary attaches to who she believes is the strongest male. Men are physically stronger so when placed out of a ready made society and faced with making a new one, physical strength is going to be highest up the hierarchy, initially. Although are they really superior when the women have realised this and used it to their advantage? Like Mary, she doesn’t love him but she knows that he can ensure safety for herself and her daughter. This is just one of the examples of the courage of Mary in the face of unimaginable adversity. This is a very thought provoking novel with a wealth of jaw dropping awe-inspiring moments of bravery and strength.
This is just a snapshot of how great this story is and the complex issues it grapples with. Prepare yourself for a great escape, painful deaths and great friendships, reunions, overturning of the justice system etc. I could go on and on analysing the ways in which this story is sensationally written but it is actually the material which the author had to work with that contributes to this. This story is actually based on a true story which I didn’t realise until the end, when it is mentioned. It made the novel even more emotional and has stayed with me ever since I’ve read it. I found this story gripping, emotional and overwhelmingly influential. It makes you realise exactly how luxurious our lives are and how far as a civilisation we have come. I think this novel should be given to all the spoilt brats in the world!
Recommended for people who love survivor stories, women’s fiction, anyone who moans how awful their life is, strong women stories, historical novels, adaption of real life stories, women who need inspiring.