The well-known phrase 'for the term of his natural life' is used by Marcus Clarke to bring home the horrors of transportation and the Tasmanian penal system in the 19th century.
Richard Devine, an innocent man (under an assumed name of Rufus Dawes) convicted of a crime he did not commit, is sent for transportation and assumed killed in a shipwreck. In reality, he is heir to a vast estate (unbeknown to him) and the convolutions of the tale that evolve from this are wonderfully written; the gradual demolishing of Dawes, the unspeakable duality of Frere, the calculating guile of Sarah and the gullible innocence of Sylvia are woven together in a plot that does not end happily ever after. This I think, serves to underline the barbarism and futility of the transportation system.
Based on actual events, Clarke uses his 'hero' to illustrate the depravation and privations that prisoners (and their guards) had to endure. Graphically showing how degradation degrades and power corrupts, the narrative never dwells on gruesome details, instead it relies for effect on the imagination of the reader, which can be more terrifying.
A book that deserves a wider readership.
on 2 January 2010
I heard of this book for the first time nearly 40 years ago. My grandad had been a sailor in his time, actually helping to take the steel the Sydney when they were building the Harbour Bridge.
He was not one for reading much, but he frquently mentioned this particular book.I tried in our local library and was just faced with a puzzled look.
Years later I have become a keen family historian. I crossed my mind that perhaps this book was my Grandad's way of letting us know we might have had family transported to Australia in the 1780's. I purchased this book from Amazon. Wow! What a read!. It even has two different endings; one to suit the story and the other to suit Victorian sensibilities.
It gives a graphic description of life in the early penal colonies and the incredible hardships the convicts had. I think this out to be a reader on all school curriculums. Not an easy read but once you get hookedits a real page turner. Ity will make you laugh, cry and be grateful it was not you.
on 24 April 2015
I was attempting to use this book as a resource for my dissertation, however, it is absolutely littered with typos and outrageous grammatical errors that ended up making no sense. When reading the publishers note at the front of the book it says, and I quote "This book descriptions we ask book sellers to display prominently warn that the book may have numerous typos, missing text, images and indexes."
Not only is this book highly inaccurate and a useless tool for education, the publishers note that warns of typos and grammatical errors is, itself, littered with typos and grammatical errors.
If you want a book that is actually this book, do not under any circumstance buy this. I will never be buying from this seller again! It's beyond a joke!