The descriptive language that the author uses makes this Historical Fiction a fascinating depiction of the past. She sets the scene of the colony of Van Diemen’s Land with factual information, and actual characters, which brings the story to life. Rachel does not labour the point by describing hardships, but allows the reader to make their own assessment of just how hard life was then. The effect of this writing style is to bring an immediacy and involvement with the main character which is at times, hard to live with.
Bridget Crack was actually the name of a convict sent from England to Van Diemen’s Land. Little else was known about her, but the author has woven a tale around her, that, in 1826, resonates with the accuracy of the times. Hobart Town was where Bridget left the ship and was placed in domestic service. She was assigned to a man who was kindly and sympathetic, had a large household, and needed another maid.
Bridget speaks very little throughout the whole story. It is obvious that she has never had housework training. The woman at least had a mattress and a blanket to sleep on, and regular meals. Eventually, she was asked to leave because she was insubordinate, and from there she went to a more difficult post, finally being sent to the “Interior”, where the toughest prisoners went.
The man she was serving was cruel, and she decided to run away and travel back to Hobart Town. The scrub was her enemy and she ran out of food and water. She was saved by some well-known bushrangers, who took her along with them, saving her life. Travelling with the notorious and hardened killers, made her one of the gang, and so she spent her life on the run.
As we read about the multi- layered society, we gain an insight into how unbalanced and unfair life was then. For those who started off with not even a mother to wipe their nose, life would never be understandable or manageable. Following a code of conduct, meant that, even if you were wealthy, you might marry for opportunity, not love, and take the consequences.
Being an Indigenous person meant that you had no rights at all; one of the bushrangers came across a camp site where all the men, women, children and dogs had been shot. One of the Aboriginal men Bridget met said, “That Gov’nor say that mountain – him called Brown Mountain,….what him know about that name?” Even the landmarks named many years before were renamed.
The author has really made past events come alive, as she has embedded history in a narrative. It is fascinating to reflect on who we were as a group, and how we came to be who we are today. Many issues have changed, but there are many issues Society still has to address, to give a fair go to all.
|Publisher||Allen and Unwin|
|Distributor||Allen and Unwin|