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    Botany Bay

    As my friend Jane would say - What A Book! It is hard to warrant that this is a first novel as the storytelling is compelling, the characters are rich and vibrant, the pacing is absolutely spot on. It really does drag you in to the tale and you can even get the odd evocative whiff of the sea whilst reading (and some other things as well but they are nowhere near as pleasant). Although based on the tale of a real woman, the author admits to taking a lot of latitude with the facts (slim as they are) and this has led to a wonderfully detailed and enveloping story. Jenny comes from a small, coastal Devon village and has been fishing since she could walk. When her father suffers a fatal accident at sea she is left with a sister who has to move from home to work and a mother smothered under a pall of grief. In order to keep body and soul together she falls (quite literally) in to a life of crime. A life that will lead her to either the gallows or transportation. Jenny is lucky and gets sentenced to seven years transportation but this is the early years and there are, as yet, no settlements in the Antipodes and conditions are, shall we say challenging. We go through the whole journey with Jenny. From beloved daughter, to criminal, to the horror of the cramped quarters in the hulk, to the worse horrors of the brig that takes them on an interminable ocean voyage. Friendships are forged, enemies are made and Jenny takes control of her destiny in the only way a woman could in those days by using her wits and her body. All the way through I could not help but cheer her on. Whether meeting local tribespeople or enrapturing Officers of the Fleet she is a tour de force. The cast of supporting characters is vast and nuanced, from fellow transportees to officers and through on to gaolers and lawyers they all have that little something about them that brings them to life for the reader. The living conditions are well described without descending in to mawkishness or salacious unnecessary detail which I find often happens in lesser hands than those of this author. Simply a fantastically absorbing book that I really did not want to finish. A word of advice though don't read the author notes on the real inspiration for Jenny before you read the book - it does give away some cataclysmic events that befall the transportees. Normally when reading a fictionalised account of a real person's life (Lyndsay Jayne Ashford does this genre so well) I will read the notes first as they set the scene nicely for what I am about to read. Unfortunately Ms Keneally gives away a little too much of the plot for them to be read first without spoiling the twists of the tale. THIS IS AN HONEST REVIEW OF A FREE COPY OF THE BOOK RECEIVED FROM READERS FIRST.
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