blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Exiles – Christina Baker Kline*

London, 1840. Evangeline, pregnant and falsely accused of stealing, has languished in Newgate prison for months. Ahead lies the journey to Australia on a prison ship. On board, Evangeline befriends Hazel, sentenced to seven years’ transport for theft.

Soon Hazel’s path will cross with an orphaned indigenous girl. Mathinna is ‘adopted’ by the new governor of Tasmania where the family treat her more like a curiosity than a child.

Amid hardships and cruelties, new life will take root in stolen soil, friendships will define lives, and some will find their place in a new society in the land beyond the seas.

CHRISTINA BAKER KLINE is the author of seven novels, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Orphan Train. Her essays, articles, and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Money, More, and Psychology Today, among other publications. She lives in New York City and on the coast of Maine.

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My thoughts:

A powerful novel set during a dark period in British and Australian history – when convicts were shipped around the world and essentially abandoned in a foreign and unknown land. Despite a set sentence, it was almost unheard of for prisoners to be brought back to the UK at the end of their time.

Instead they had to build new lives thousands of miles from anyone or anything they knew. As the women in this novel have to.

Hazel endures terrible hardships even after reaching Tasmania, but her strength and will to survive see her through.

Mathinna represents the thousands of Aboriginal people who were moved from their ancestral lands and mistreated by the British settlers, much as had happened in America, India and Africa under the colonisation and expansion of the British Empire.

Both of these women have to find their place in this strange new world, one built on cruelty and the class system, that leaves poor people no choices in their lives.

The book was incredibly moving and at times incredibly sad, the death of Mathinna’s pet possum was awful, that stupid man should have trained his dog better. Evangeline deserved better and I am very glad Ruby had such a wonderful guardian in Hazel.

Mathinna was based on a real Aboriginal child, taken from her people by the governor of Tasmania and his wife (neither of whom come off well in the novel) and the female convicts all have their roots too in real women. This history isn’t widely discussed either in Australia or here in Britain, but it needs to be acknowledged and books like this help bring these stories to light.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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