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on 30 May 2017
Don't let the title put you off, this is a first class read, can't recommend enough!! Well written and researched.
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on 3 August 2015
I am saving for a holiday read.
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on 16 February 2013
Quite enchanting and utterly scary in places, to think it was little over 300 years ago that we were so barbaric is baffling. Glad I'm alive now instead, though.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 October 2016
What an astonishing story. Siân Rees really brings this dreadful story to life; the squalor and deprivations suffered in Newgate, conditions aboard ship and worst of all, the life in a convict colony.

This is a historical narrative from which I learned a great deal. I had no idea that transportation of the unwanted started within the reign of Elizabeth 1 and that so many were despatched to America, Canada and Africa. Nor was I aware of the duplicity of successive British Governments throughout the 1700s; various legislative measures were introduced to ensure convicts were transported and new areas colonised under martial control.

The book appears to be meticulously researched, with the early chapters following the crimes and misfortunes of a number of individuals. As people, they spring to life; it's easy to imagine their plight and I found some of the scenes emotionally charged for a whole range of reasons. This is the way history should be told; there's perspective and honesty and the reader can form their own conclusions about 'justice'.

Anyone with an even remote interest in social history should enjoy this. It sits well with a couple of Kate Grenville novels, adding substance to those fictions. I'm looking forward to reading more by Siân Rees.
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on 16 April 2016
I suppose we all knew that convicts were shipped from the UK to Australia, but didn't think much about the details. This book tells the story of some of those people, especially the women, and really makes you think about what it was like. Many of the women had to prostitute themselves in order to survive the voyage, which could last many months if they got blown off course. Some were career criminals but others were just unlucky. Some died, some became respectable and founded towns in Australia , some returned to the UK and were reunited with their families.. The book focusses a lot on female realities - women got scurvy like the men, but they also gave birth, had miscarriages and had no fresh water to wash the cloths they used as sanitary towels. It's a very good read and genuine history - there's a bit of a mismatch between the title and the content, which may or may not have done the book a favour.
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on 12 January 2001
This is the little known story of 240 women who were sentenced at the Old Bailey in London to transportation to Australia in the summer of 1789. The idea was to provide the new colony with breeding stock. These "disorderly" women were convicted pickpockets, prostitutes, thieves and muggers ranging in age from 11 to 68. They had one thing in common - they were all streetwise.
Despite the reasons for their journey and the risks involved in travel over such vast distances in the 18th Century most of the "cargo" arrived in Sydney after 11 months at sea fitter and healthier than when they set out.
The description of life aboard the "Lady Julian" is excellent displaying the author's knowledge of all things maritime.
I found the whole book authoritative, well researched with plenty of attention to detail. It made easy reading and with my interest in 18th Century crime and punishment an excellent addition to my library.
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on 17 May 2007
I apologise in advance, I am sure my review will undoubtedly fall short of the style of many a more experienced literary critic.

Wow! This book is truly a work of art, it has been so carefully written.

I bought this book on a whim, I liked the title and it sounded 'ok', since it arrived I have only had my head out of it to carry out my daily job, any other time has been dedicated to reading and in some places rereading certain passages.

Have you ever experienced seasickness? I have and I can imagine all too well how sick many of the woman on that voyage must have felt, the rank smell of the animals and other humans aboard the ship must have been horrendous. Sian Rees shows us all of this and paints a story that will, I am sure endure and show the world how Australia and other colonies came to be populated by English convicts.

How I wish history had been taught like this at school, I am sure I would have become interested a lot sooner - I like to read about the ordinary folk, the people who did amazing things and travelled great distances to new continents.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 18 September 2015
The title makes this book seem rather more racy than it actually is. This is a book about the prison system of the late eighteenth century and the transportation of women prisoners to Australia - it concentrates on one particular ship and has some good information from records of the time which helps us to personalise the women and understand a bit more of their lives. This is a fascinating account of social history and I found it all interesting as well as touching in places.

The author starts by giving us an impression of the treatment of women prisoners at the time as well as of the crimes for which they were committed. Because records are available she can give us actual accounts of individuals and what they did. She helpfully fills in context so that we can see why many women turned to crime and how their offences were viewed at the time. With so many women convicts filling the prisons in England there was seen to be a need to transport them as their punishment to the new colonies, especially as so many of those already there were men and they needed to have children to prosper.

The book tells the story of the voyage touching on the lives of the sailors, life on board, and what happened when they came into various ports. The title refers not only to how some women made temporary attachments to the sailors for protection on the trip but also to the fact that they sold themselves for luxuries when they touched land - almost certainly having been pimped out by the crew who took a cut. The author is clear about the realities of the situation and makes no moral judgement about the decisions made by anyone in these transactions. The story finishes with the arrival in Australia and the circumstances which faced the women, most of whom never saw their homeland again.

The story is told in an easy to read fashion with lots of social history context and reference to primary source documents. Where the author makes assumptions she is clear about this and they all seemed to make sense to me. I didn't know much about this appalling event in history and found this book fascinating.
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on 21 April 2016
Sian Rees provides a vivid and carefully written book on a topic not usually written about - the transportation of women prisoners of war to Australia in the 18th century. It is horrifying to learn about the life of these women, their conditions and fate. A lively and colourful read, sensitively told and well researched. The book isn't juts about the women but also covers the lives of the sailors in port. An excellent social history that does not seek to pass judgement on the facts.
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on 19 July 2016
I have been reading The Floating Brothel because my daughter recently sang in the premier of the new Opera, Banished, by Stephen McNeff. This opera takes place on the Lady Juliana and weaves around the characters whose stories Sian Rees has painstakingly recovered. It is almost impossible to imagine the thoughts and feelings of these unfortunate women, pushed to he margins of life and to desperate acts in an England whose rapid industrial expansion left them destitute and then grimly punished for being for turning to petty theft to try and survive. The resilience of the women to adapt and seize their chances for survival makes for an inspiring story. But the sailors and officers on board the Lady Juliana all had their part to play. While many no doubt took the women for granted, making use of them for their own ends, a significant number treated them with as much dignity and respect as was possible given the historical and political climate. Sian Rees has uncovered a remarkable story. Tells the tale in a compelling way and has drawn on contemporary material to do so.

I am so pleased to have had reason to read this book.
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