There have been many Historical Fiction books written about the First Settlers and the struggle and hardships that they faced. In A Great Southern Land is different in that it follows an Irish family who migrated to Australia about sixty years after the settlement was formed.
They are a close and loving family who felt that they would be escaping the tyranny of class and starting their new life with the ability to develop a successful family hub. The anger generated in the past is close to the surface for many of the newcomers to Australia, and the appalling arrogance and brutal treatment by many of the law enforcers is apparent.
Kieran and Eve are the main characters in this story, set in and around Sydney, then Orange and then around the goldfields in Eureka. Both of these immigrants, (Eve is from Liverpool) came across each other in Sydney, where Kieran points to Eve to help a sea captain find a maid. This is by far the best outcome for a young and beautiful new convict arrival, and Eve remembers Kieran. He is a hardworking, hard partying man, but has been stunned by the young girl’s beauty and sweetness.
Kieran leaves for the gold fields to make his fortune and along with his mate Dave and works a patch. The Irish man has been working and trying to save to buy land and build a house. It is at this time that the gold miners were being taxed for their licences to search for gold and were beaten or locked up if they couldn’t pay. The politics of the time were guided by poor finances and poor decisions. Common sense and practicality were overruled by arrogance and brute force.
The story of the Eureka Stockade is well known, but this is an inside account which makes it so much more personal. The Eureka flag flies, and the men from all over the world who work on the gold fields, get together and form a bond which they see as being “Australian” and, thus a chance to live in a new way. This is a story of history, and personal triumph and the sense that a new beginning has been fought for and won.
|Publisher||Harper Collins Publishing|