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The Shape of Water Imagined fragments from an elusive life: Sophia Degraves of Van Diemen’s Land

The many layers of this book come together seamlessly, to make a wonderfully accurate Historical fiction story. We find a great romance, along with early Australian history, and interesting details of Van Diemen’s Land in its early days. The man Sophia married (Peter), and followed to Van Diemen’s land, came from a wealthy family, and was constantly coming up with brilliant ideas, which mostly failed. Their early years in England are uncertain, and loyal family and friends, help the couple often. Not enough though to keep Peter out of jail for a year.

 Sophia is a well-educated and protected young woman when she meets Peter. She is smitten with him and his grand ideas, happily accepting his proposal of marriage. Peter tries many occupations and grand schemes, most of which prosper for a short while then fizzle out. For the first few years of their marriage, Sophia gives birth to a child each year, and constantly cares for them herself.

 She has every faith in Peter, even when he is sent to jail for stealing bolts of cloth…another misunderstanding. When Peter is released from prison, he announces that the family will emigrate to Van Diemen’s land. Sophia is horrified, but Peter insists that it will be for the best for all of them. They will receive a grant of land and he can set up a timber mill which cannot fail, as everyone needs timber for houses. Peter proposed to buy a sailing ship and sell passages to people to help fund the trip.

 This trip was delayed, as once again Peter’s creditors caught up with him. He was returned to jail. Eventually the trip was undertaken, although one of the children died along the way. Sophia was devastated and pregnant again, she gave birth on the trip. She is such a caring hardworking woman, that when they arrive, she teaches schoolwork to children, while running the family. She has a garden and a cow, and makes ends meet.

 The story is told by Sophia, and she comes across as a resilient, positive, loving and trusting woman. She only begins to doubt Peter in later life, when it is obvious that he has tried to proceed in a blinkered fashion. He was given a grant of land, but built his mill further away where there was access to fresh water.

 Eventually the Cascade Brewery, famous in Australia for its crisp and tasty beer was built by Peter’s cousin Hugh Macintosh. At a recent anniversary of the Brewery, a researcher wrote the history of Peter Degraves, and shows him as a man of great vision and foresight. However, he didn’t take into account various records from England where he was shown to be “a thief, a bully, a conman and a prolific liar” When Sophia discovered some papers that outlined some of Peter’s misdemeanors, she continued on as she always had. This is an amazing fictional story about a wonderful woman, set against the factual history of her husband and the factual portrayal of the times and people in the early days of Van Diemen’s Land.

Author Anne Blythe-Cooper
Publisher Forty South Publishers
ISBN 9780995367388
Website http:/www.denisjones.com
Distributor Forty South Publishers
Released November 2016