We have our first 10! We both awarded FLED by Meg Keneally 5 stars. A sensational debut.
” ‘ I said I would tell you our destination when I knew it. We will be travelling to Botany Bay.’ ‘Is it closer than America?’ Jenny asked. ‘Much further I’m afraid. Further still than Africa. I expect we will be at sea for some months.’ “
Reading this made me realise how incredible it is to think that Australia was once an unknown land. Considering the now cluttered coastline, filled with people of all creeds and cultures, just over two hundred years ago, it was virgin territory. With indigenous people and native animals its sole inhabitants. Until the tall ships arrived. I tried to imagine how it would have appeared through the eyes of the people who landed on her shores, either as convicts or the soldiers and sailors guarding them. And also how strange it would have been for the indigenous people to suddenly find pale faced strangers landing on their shore.
This is an absolutely first rate debut from Meg Keneally. She skilfully captures the essence of the hardships of settling on and in our “great Southern land”.
We follow the journey of Jenny Trelawney* from her impoverished existence in Cornwall, to landing on Sydney’s shores as a female convict. This is a realistic and fascinating account of her journey.
From enduring the long boat ride across the oceans, to building a home in a strange land with a babe in arms, Jenny has to dig deep to survive. Both for her sake and for her young (growing) family. She has to think on her feet and use her wits rather than her fists. We’re shown Jenny’s interaction with the native people, slowly befriending them, trying to learn from them about this strange new land with its unusual plants and even stranger animals. We watch the politics and petty jealousies of convict life. Where a rumour can earn you a flogging. Or a hanging.
Meg Keneally has the uncanny ability to paint the scene incredibly accurately. We see this brave new world thought Jenny’s eyes. It’s harsh, it’s brutal, it’s cruel. Interspersed with moments of beauty, friendship and sometimes even love.
I adored Jenny’s strength of character and resilience. She is stubborn and determined. This is one feisty lady, doing all she can to endure the harsh environment of an unknown land in such a male dominated society. Only one with such strength of spirit would even dare to consider escaping the shores of Botany Bay…
No further superlatives are needed. Whether or not you’re a history buff, this is quite simply a must read. Lose yourself in it.
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.
So, as I said our first 10. The next book in our Buddy Reads is Nat's choice and she tells me she already has it picked.