4th April 2020
A tale of two very different sisters whose 1890s voyage from London into remote outback Australia becomes a journey of self-discovery, set against a landscape of wild beauty and savage dispossession.
London in 1891: Harriet Cameron is a talented young artist whose mother died when she was barely five. She and her beloved sister Sarah were brought up by their father, radical thinker James Cameron.
After adventurer Henry Vincent arrives on the scene, the sisters’ lives are changed forever.
Sarah, the beauty of the family, marries Henry and embarks on a voyage to Australia.
Harriet, intensely missing Sarah, must decide whether to help her father with his life’s work or to devote herself to painting.
When James Cameron dies unexpectedly, Harriet is overwhelmed by grief.
Seeking distraction, she follows Sarah to Australia, and afterwards into the outback, where she is alienated by the casual violence and great injustices of outback life.
Her rejuvenation begins with her friendship with an Aboriginal stockman and her growing love for the landscape.
But this fragile happiness is soon threatened by murders at a nearby cattle station and by a menacing station hand who is seeking revenge.
This is a fantastic piece of historical fiction infused with family drama. The Australian setting is beautifully described and really drew me into the story.
I really liked that this was based around the lives of woman as so often books from this time period focus on men. It was brilliant to see each of the woman’s lives and how they dealt with the issues life hit them with and also to see their bond as sisters.
The book covers many topics such as the appalling treatment of the indigenous people and the lack of rights for women really well and encourages the reader to think.
Looking forward to reading more of the authors work!
Thank you to @annecater and @reddoorbooks for my #gifted copy in exchange for review.
Her ancestors came to Australia from England and Scotland at the end of the 1800s, before Federation in 1901. Indeed, in 1891, when the novel starts, 32% of the Australian population were born overseas, mostly in the UK. Alison grew up fascinated by the thought that Australia once comprised small colonies, teetering on the edge of the vast continent, and wanted in this new novel to travel back in time to view it through the eyes of two strong young women. The tales of Alison’s late father, Norman Booth, about his years in the Northern Territory also awakened her interest in the Northern Territory.
Her debut novel, Stillwater Creek, was Highly Commended in the 2011 ACT Book of the Year Award, and afterwards published in Reader’s Digest Select Editions in Asia and in Europe. Alison’s other novels are The Indigo
Sky (2011), A Distant Land (2012), and A Perfect Marriage (2018).
Alison is Emeritus Professor of Economics at the Australian National University (https://researchers.anu.edu.au/researchers/booth-al). In November 2019, Alison was made Fellow of the Econometric Society, a prestigious international society for the advancement of economic theory in its relation to statistics and mathematics.