9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Horrifying indictment of the Transportation System,
This review is from: For the Term of His Natural Life: His Natural Life (World's Classics) (Paperback)
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.