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  • Masterful storytelling

    “A London governess and a Scottish midwife’s neglected daughter are sent to a penal colony in Australia, where an Aboriginal girl is in another sort of captivity.” From the description The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline sounds like it will be another interesting book of historical fiction. We all know a bit of the stories about how criminals were shipped off to penal colonies and how the native people in many countries were “civilized” by uninvited visitors. If this is what you expect from The Exiles, you are in for a pleasant surprise, because in author Kline’s more than capable hands this book brings this history alive. It’s detailed and colorful and moving and haunting. Yes, Evangeline and Hazel and Olive and the others did commit a crime. But Christina Baker Kline gives us a peek behind the curtain, into the circumstances of their lives to see why and how this could have happened. How they were duped or ignorant or frightened or just born into circumstances that put them on a path that could led nowhere but to prison in Australia. The treatment they receive every step of this journey is horrific, truly inhumane. They are not people, they are property. And as women apparently they are held to a higher standard and therefore must deserve to receive even harsher punishment. As for Mathinna, the little Aboriginal girl, her crime seems to be having been born in the wrong place and the wrong time. The Governor’s wife has a collection, a bizarre and thoughtless collection, and is conducting an experiment – take one of those savages and give them every opportunity to be just like her. Nature versus nurture. Can she erase their wild, willful natures if they are given the right opportunities? Along with the right clothes to wear and the right food to eat of course? Mathinna, too, is sadly on a path of no return. The Exiles is not an easy book to read. The arrogance of the British in feeling it was their right, their duty, or maybe just their sport, to try and change or eliminate an entire people is breathtakingly cruel indeed. Again, we already know this history but when reading about it through the eyes of a small child who doesn’t even have the warmth of human contact is heart-wrenching. Mathinna is such a bright, spirited little thing, once so happy and free. It’s not easy to read about the treatment and prospects of the women prisoners, either. Whether or not they deserved some punishment becomes almost irrelevant when they are subjected to such cruelty, such caprice at the hands of brutal sailors and jailers and government officials, when their lives are in danger every single second and no one cares, usually not even their fellow prisoners, because it really does boil down to survival of the fittest. And receive punishment that seems so out of proportion to the crime. But even though The Exiles was not easy to read, it was a book I could not put down and feel fortunate to have read. I became so involved with these characters, knowing at times in advance what would happen but hoping for another outcome, being surprised at some of the unexpected twists and turns, feeling my anxiety level rise at the danger that just didn’t seem to abate and was always just around the corner. Christina Baker Kline is a talented author, masterful, skilled at building word pictures or people, sights, sounds that will engage and haunt you. The story moves smoothy from place to place and advances in time so that you feel a part of the journey. Thanks to the author and William Morrow Books for providing an advance copy of The Exiles in exchange for my honest opinion. This is a strong, thrilling, moving book I am happy to have read and proud to recommend. All opinions are my own.

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  • The Exiles

    Turn pages novel! The story of exiled women from England to the penal colony of St Damian's Land later named Tasmania. A story of their struggle to stay alive and of those who helped them and their children build a new world with more opportunities blurring the class lines.

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  • It great

    This novel is not very well written. The story is predictable and rather trite. The writing is unsophisticated, mundane and without imagination. Does not qualify as literature.

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