With the death of her Father and the King’s pernicious taxes forcing her family into penury, Jenny has little choice but to turn to a life of crime to survive. Whether it is chance or fate which places her in the path of a merchant’s horse, it is Jenny’s hand that grabs his ankle and pulls him down as he draws a knife to defend himself against a highway robber who has appeared from the forest. The penny drops literally as the robber rewards Jenny with a silver coin and an offer of nefarious employment. Even while declining, she realises that for her family and herself to avoid starvation and survive, she must indeed follow this robber down a path that more often than not, ends with a noose.
So begins the amazing adventurous life of Jenny Gwyn and it’s all true. Jenny is a fictional character yes, but her life is based on the historical highway woman Mary Bryant. I had to keep reminding myself of this as I marvelled at how somebody could endure the trials and hardships that she does, and how she continually defies almost impossible odds.
It all starts when Jenny is inevitably captured, and her sentence is reduced from hanging to transportation to Botany Bay for seven years. Because of the duration, and the horrendous living conditions experienced within the bowels of these transportation ships, it’s a wonder that any of the prisoners survive the journey.
For those who do survive, the future is not much brighter. The colony is woefully unprepared for the environment it finds upon arrival. The oppressive heat, the poor soil, the lack of food and livestock. Arable land cannot be found. Fishing proves to be the one constant reliable food source and it turns out to be Jenny’s saviour.
To mitigate the men’s insatiable lust, marriage is encouraged between the prisoners and Jenny sees an opportunity in Dan. Dan proves invaluable to the colony as an expert fisherman and as fish are the major food source of the colony, Dan has access to the cutter, the ship’s workboat, which is now used for fishing.
Jenny had a baby girl on the voyage over from England and a baby boy with Dan, who she marries. Jenny believes that her young family will never survive the harsh brutal conditions of the colony and plans an escape plan with almost no chance of succeeding. What follows is an epic adventure that you will find hard to believe. 5 Stars.
Meg Keneally started her working life as a junior public affairs officer at the Australian Consulate-General in New York, before moving to Dublin to work as a sub-editor and freelance features writer. On returning to Australia, she joined the Daily Telegraph as a general news reporter, covering everything from courts to crime to animals' birthday parties at the zoo. She then joined Radio 2UE as a talkback radio producer.
In 1997 Meg co-founded a financial service public relations company, which she sold after having her first child. For more than ten years, Margaret has worked in corporate affairs for listed financial services companies, and doubles as a part-time SCUBA diving instructor. She lives in Sydney with her husband Craig and children Rory and Alex.
There is a wonderful podcast interview at Booktopia, here is a link - https://www.booktopia.com.au/blog/2019/03/26/meg-keneally-fled-podcast/