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In Tasmania: Adventures at the End of the World [Paperback]

Nicholas Shakespeare
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: £10.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

3 Nov 2005
In this fascinating history of two turbulent centuries in an apparently idyllic place, Shakespeare effortlessly weaves the history of this unique island with a kaleidoscope of stories featuring a cast of unlikely characters from Errol Flynn to the King of Iceland, a village full of Chatwins and, inevitably, a family of Shakespeares. But what makes this more than a personal quest is Shakespeare's discovery that, despite the nineteen century purges, the Tasmanian Aborigines were not, as previously believed, entirely wiped out.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (3 Nov 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1740513312
  • ISBN-13: 978-1740513319
  • ASIN: 0099466082
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 172,992 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'A beautiful affectionate portrait' -- Sunday Times

Book Description

'A beautiful affectionate portrait' Sunday Times

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tasmanian Tales 7 Nov 2005
Nicholas Shakespeare's 'In Tasmania' is a reminder of the sheer absurdity of the human condition, equally applicable 200 years' ago as to today. There are tales aplenty that only real life can produce. 'In Tasmania' is one of those books so rich in prose and so vivid in content that one comes away as if one had actually been present across the decades in this most bizarre of places. How fascinating our collective heritage is. Mr Shakespeare has produced a tremendous read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
enjoyed the journey. the author has found himself a nice corner of the world to reflect and weave some tales - good for him! old and new converge and contrast with some humour, insight and a liberal slice of the island's history. a nice reminder that there is a very different world outside our large cities. definitely adding Tazzie to the visit list after finishing this one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great insight 10 Nov 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a quirky combination of fact, family history and insight in to this remote country. Ideal to read before or during a visit to the place.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This author could dramatise a pin falling . . . 27 Dec 2007
By gronow
. . . and make it riveting reading at the same time. I imagine that most of us in the UK give little thought to Tasmania - that will almost certainly change for readers of this book. Mr Shakespeare weaves the early history of the country round that of his ancestors in a most entertaining fashion. At the same time he does not neglect the present. There were some awful rogues and vagabonds who seem to congregate here and once again poor Captain Bligh came unstuck at the hands of some of them! The claim that the Aborigines were/are not extinct is a little specious and depends very much on your definitions of "extinct" and "Aborigine" and what seems a current fashion among Tasmanians.
The paperback version is ill-served by the reproduction of the illustrations and the publishers should be ashamed to issue such poor examples. If those in the hard cover version are equally as bad I think N. Shakespeare should sue.
Nevertheless I recommend this book as a thoroughly good and very informative read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shakespeare Down Under 17 Aug 2010
By Dave_42 - Published on
"In Tasmania" by Nicholas Shakespeare is an enjoyable blend of remembrances, anecdotes, and history. The stories are split into four sections, each one tackling a different aspect of the history of Tasmania, and each with wonderful supporting personal stories which take us along on the journey of Nicholas Shakespeare discovering the history of his family as well as the history of Tasmania and the significant overlap between the two. The book could easily fit into the category of History or Memoir, and the writing in places is almost like that of a novel.

The first section is titled "Father of Tasmania" and focuses largely on Anthony Fenn Kemp, an unusual character who travelled to France during the revolution and then went to South Carolina and met George Washington before making his way to New South Wales. There he got involved in most everything, and not in a good way. Shakespeare alternates between detailing the colorful adventures of Anthony Kemp and his own discovery that he was related to this important, but not particularly well-remembered or well-liked figure. It would be impossible to cover Kemp's life in a review, and not surprisingly this is the largest section of the book.

The second section is called "Black Lines", and it deals with the aboriginal population and the interactions between the Europeans and the natives. This is a very poignant section, detailing the history right down to the death of the last full-blooded male (William Lanne) and female (Lalla Rookh, a.k.a. Truganina) Tasmanian aboriginals. Shakespeare discusses the scenes of both of their passings so well, that it cannot fail to touch the reader's heart. The horrors of the fight over Lanne's body, and the sorry of Truganini's last years after Lanne had passed leave an impact that one will remember long after completing the book.

The third section is called "Elysium", and in this section the author looks at how Tasmania went from being perceived as "hell on Earth" to a much more positive reputation. There is no single thread in this section, but his family history focuses on a favorite uncle of his father's whom Nicholas Shakespeare learns came to Tasmania and the relatives that he meets while learning about him. This is a more personal section than the previous ones, and more general in its approach to covering the history of Tasmania. Though called "Elysium", there is still a bit of "hell" included, especially in the detailed section on an 80-year old murder which took place near where his relatives lived.

The last section is titled "Oyster Bay", and this section itself is divided into four short chapters, each detailing one particular aspect of Tasmania. The first is "Daughter of Tasmania" and is about the actress Merle Oberon who claimed to be from Tasmania, but her history is not quite so clear. The second chapter is titled "Tigers and Devils" and discusses the history of the unique animals of Tasmania, and in particular the mysterious Tasmanian Tiger who some say still survives. The third chapter discusses Oyster Bay and the unusual events which have occurred at that location. The last chapter which closes the section and the book is titled "Doubles" in which Shakespeare discovers that the subject of his previous book also has numerous relatives in Tasmania. He goes on to bring together the two sets of relatives that he has there as well.

Those who have been there know that Tasmania is an unusual place, with its own feel and pace. "In Tasmania" does a beautiful job of capturing the feel of the place, from the scary and horrible past, to the beautiful natural environment, to the quaint English country town feel in some areas. For those who have been there, you will enjoy your own remembrances as you read this book, and for those who haven't, this book is the next best thing to visiting.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful - Tasmania (and historical travel writing) at its best! 27 Dec 2008
By Jason Nitz - Published on
Shakespeare weaves a wonderful, gripping story of Tasmania and its history using a mix of stories primarily centred around the authors' long-lost (and unknown) relatives who came to Tasmania (called Van Diemen's Land then) during the colonial era. The author's search for his family's history takes him around Tasmania where modern day people linked to the story slowly give up their family secrets to reveal a unique blend of history, intrigue and mystery. Interspersed in the main story is a chapter on Tasmania Aboriginals who all but disappeared during life of the main story which centres on Anthony Fenn Kemp. Also covered are chapters on the Tasmanian Tiger and whether it still lurks in the deep dark forests of Tasmania central region and west coast.

Highly readable, and as the praise on the front covers says, difficult to put down. My family and I have been to Tasmania several times, and like the author, we've realised its where we want to end up (a few more years and hopefully we'll disappear from the mainland completely). Time really does take on a different meaning in Tassie - it's slow pace, often ridiculed on the mainland, makes you realise that there is more to life than the rat race.

If you're into Australia's colonial history and enjoy stories that jump from the present to the past and include real locations, then this is the best you'll find on Tasmania. Whilst it's only a small microcosm of colonial life in Tasmania, it's well written and absorbing. If you don't know the places mentioned in the book, grab a map and follow the journey as Shakespeare takes you into heart of Tasmania's history. Best enjoyed on the veranda with a Casade beer, or my favourite, Boags Draught.
2.0 out of 5 stars Tasmania by Nicholas Shakespeare or Snorespeare with moments 15 July 2014
By Fred P. Reiss - Published on
Tasmania by Nicholas Shakespeare is a book that should have been only sixty pages. But the hook Shakespeare uses is to trace his family roots and show the connection between the history and the current issues of the day. There’s worthwhile reading about the islands history, anecdotes about different escape attempts, one that resulted in a prisoner, Alexander Pearce (1790 – 1824) eating several of his inmates, and who was eventually hung (recounted in several books). I found I skimmed through a hundred or so pages dealing with Shakespeare and his family. His sturdy but monotone prose is workmanlike without any flair at all, typical drawing-room British, and his family is uninterested, and I found his personality somewhere between plaid and dark brown (Fred translation: dull).

If you want to enjoy it: skim. You’ll know when! Trust me.

I’ll share what I learned, Tasmania is roughly the size of Ireland a 140 miles across the Bass Strait. In 1642 Able Tasman, a captain in Dutch East India Company, mistook it for mainland Australia. He originally named Van Dieman’s Land. Tasman after Anthony Van Dieman, his boss. Ah, that wonderful British class system! It became known as Tasmania in 1856. Two celebrities from the area: Merle Oberon and Errol Flynn. Charles Darwin liked it, and wanted to return but never did.

In 1804, Tasmania began with 181 people, 64 soldiers, 74 convicts, 14 children, which eventually became hosted 74,000 convictsThe father of Tasmania, Anthony Fen Kemp, a true scoundrel, who became rich importing and selling rum and tobacco, and using convict labor to build his estate and raise sheep, He forced the soldiers under his command to accept rum and taco as payment instead of cash (which he kept) and if they refused, threw them in jail.

As far as aborigines go, when the British first arrived in 1804, they estimate there were 5,000, by 1831. They started pissing the tribes off because they seized the best hunting grounds of wallaby and kangaroo. The result, convict laborers and settlers suddenly staggered back to their homes with spears in their back and their sheep slaughtered by the natives. And since, the natives didn’t have weapons beyond sticks, and the Brits had guns, disease, and syphilis, the aboriginal population that dropped to 400. In 1868 103,00 Europeans and one full-blooded aborigine.

Here’s your basic, prisoners fell timber, build road, houses assigned to settlers, then were eventually given a ticket-of-leave. Some convicts escaped and became outlaws. There were two beliefs with prisoners, one that the flogging and strict punishment would rehabilitate them (this was based on a Brit Knopwood who looked what happened in France with revolution and justified this treatment, which I guess he didn’t realize was the treatment that provoked the revolution)

Port Arthur (1830 to the mid 1870s operation), and MacQuarie Harbor on West Coast. The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes is a well-written definitive book on the founding of Australia and the lives of convicts, but Shakespeare maintains the treatment wasn’t as brutal as Hughes describes it, citing the parole system Port Arthur created that allowed prisoners who served their sentences to be given freedom and land to build a life. Surprise, Lachlan Macquarie (1762-1824) kindness and hope worked better than discipline. But Port Arthur created the "Silent System” where prisoners were hooded and made to stay silent in a confined space to reflect upon the actions which had brought him there. Instead, they went insane.

The only fun part of the book is when the author participates in killing mutton birds out of holes, which that might have poisonous King snakes in them. Hunters wait until the eggs hatch, then “harvest” the young chicks, which means kill them and squeeze the digestive fluids out of their guts through their open beaks. The fluid is allowed to settle before the “gurry”is removed from the oil. The oil is strained several times until the final product is pure oil.

Muttonbirds are harvested commercially annually throughout the Bass Strait Islands between Tasmania and Victoria and also around New Zealand. The meat is regarded as a treasured seasonal food resource, especially by aboriginal people from those areas. By product – such as Muttonbird oil has and is still today being used as a liniment, for soap products, honing tools, taken orally for various health complaints, and as a health tonic. The oil is $40 per litre.

Who knew? Anyway, I thought that was cool.

Tasmanian facts:

Tasmanian Tiger died in captivity in 1937. Supposedly this “thylacine” (yikes another unnecessary British word) is cited bnty people. Kinda like Bigfoot or the Jersey Devil. Actually, I hope it’s still alive.

Tasmanian Devils eat 40 percent of body weight 10 kilogram. It is endanger from a facila cancer and is now being bred in protected environments for release later

The environmentalist have protected Tasmania’s environment. 39 percent is world heritage. Over140,000 people a year come to see the Franklin river. (Green movement began 1972)

The King Holly tree one of the oldest living plants.

Truganimi was the last living full-blooded aborigine in Tasmania (1812-1876), who had a horrific and traumatic life.

In 1830, The colonists did a “Black Line” where they tried to form a human-chain formation and literally be a net to herd the aborigines into a section of Tasmania. It failed. They caught three killed or two were caught and later released him. The eventually resulted in removal of the natives to Flinders Island and other places where they died off.

Outside of a few pages where there are some anecdotes and description of floggings, but oddly barely mentions the notorious The Port Arthur massacre in April 1996, where one man went on a killing spree that took the lives of 35 people and 23 wounded. I pretty much saved you a lot of time. Shakespeare rarely touched on the For getting excited about Tasmania I turned to Lonely Planet’s Tasmania, which at least got me excited about seeing this wondrous ark of wilderness and cool people, fairy penguins, and black swans.
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent observer 3 Feb 2014
By jennifer rosemary mckellar - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The book is off beat and beguiling. It begins with a rather fun visit by one member of the Shakespeare family to another and leads on to all sorts of observations of what this English writer encountered by going to live in Tasmania. I read it while I was travelling around Tasmania and its aptness to what I was seeing fascinated me.

Nicholas Shakespeare lives on the Freycinet Peninsula. I looked out across it one morning and agreed with what his English father said when he visited: This. is. the. most. beautiful. place. in. the. world."

I loved Tasmania. The book gives an unfolding look at one person's growing awareness and knowledge of this lovely place. I was pleased by what I read.
4.0 out of 5 stars Shakespeare's lucky find 14 Jun 2013
By PadmaPriya - Published on
Shakespeare lives the genealogist's dream. Weary of the excitements of city life, he relocates his family from London to Tasmania and idly asks himself if there are any other Shakespeares on this remote isle a long, long way from Warwickshire. He checks the phone book and Lo! a hitherto unknown distant cousin beckons and Behold! a book is born. The more Shakespeare digs into his ancestry the more publishable his book becomes. Turns out he is related to one of the most notorious characters in Tasmanian history and he happens to have in his possession a treasure trove of family letters and business accounts that shed a colorful array of lights on the pre-Tasmanian life of this character. Other family connections lead him to discover distant Aboriginal relatives. Now he is able to craft a narrative in which social and political history entwines with family biography. And which also happens to be a pleasure to read.
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