What a joy it is to read the words of master storyteller Thomas Keneally. He has presented this Historical fiction, The Dickens Boy in such a way that it captures a variety of scenarios and blends them together. The Dickens family is explored and woven throughout the outback of Australian. The early station owners and their families, hard working and tough, can all name characters from Dickens novels, while learning about Aboriginal Culture and practices, and moving thousands of sheep.
Edward Dickens, called Plorn by his father, is the tenth child of Charles. Raised in a happy family (although his mother left) by his father and Aunt, there was much unity, and companionship in the large household. However, Plorn had a dark secret. His father told him” You must apply yourself,” but academically he was not successful. Charles decided that Edward would have to try to achieve success in Australia and arranged for him to sail there at age sixteen, to find his place on a sheep station.
Plorn was remarkably adaptable, and determined to work hard, to be a success, and make his father proud. So follows the fascinating story of this “Man with the famous father,” integrating into the heat, dust, flies, and vastness of the outback. He takes part in cricket matches, learns about bush rangers, droving sheep, and Australian girls.
Thomas Keneally has researched the life of the Dickens family and Plorn. The way he has woven the maturing of this young man in an outback setting is seamless and realistic. Another fascinating aspect is the sign of the Australian culture gradually emerging from the English gentleman’s home. The Aboriginal storyline is also one to reflect upon. The friendships that emerge between the pastoralists and the Aboriginal people are warm and non-judgemental. However, this situation is changed by a Ranger from Adelaide. This part of Plorn’s life is delightful to follow in this harsh outback Queensland setting.