The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline

Its been awhile since I posted, and also some time since I did a proper book review, even though I’ve been keeping track of the books I’m reading on my instagram. I’m hoping to get back into the flow of book reviews as I’ve already read four books this month and have many more on my book cart waiting for me to read.

The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline came in for me at the library and I devoured it between that afternoon and the next. I simply couldn’t put it down. Set in the 1840s, this novel tells the story of how female convicts were banished to Australia for the slightest offence, such as stealing a silver spoon or for simply being pregnant out of wedlock.

This is a story of hardship and heart-wrenching loss, cruel injustice and discrimination, as well as also being a story of perseverance and resilience in spite of opposition, and the powerful bonds of friendship and togetherness in the face of trials.

There are three main characters in this book, and each of their stories are equally heartbreaking.

There is Evangeline, once a governess at an affluent household, who is arrested on false charges of thievery after her pregnancy is discovered. She is imprisoned in the infamous Newgate prison where she is sentenced to fourteen years of labour in the penal colonies of Australia. Living conditions in the prison are harsh and degrading, and the prison ship is little better.

On the ship, Evangeline meets Hazel, a young woman who learned midwifery and herbal remedies from her midwife mother, and uses her skills to help those imprisoned with her. Hazel is a courageous and daring, with a strong will to survive the many hardships that are thrown at her.

And then there is Matthina, a young indigenous girl who is torn from her family and home in Australia because of some rich lady’s whim. Treated as an object, rather than a person, Matthina is paraded around the wealthy Franklin’s inner circle as if she were some specimen to be examined, and then discarded when they tire of her. Matthina is actually a real historical character, as are the Franklins (Sir John being the one to lead the fatal Franklin expedition).

This book caused a variety of emotions. I adored each of the characters, mourned at their sorrows and losses, and was angry at the injustices done against them. This book totally transported me back in time. I love finding historical fiction which focusses on events or time periods which there are not many novels written, and this was one of them. I read this much too fast, and was saddened when it was finished! I was excited, however, to learn a tv adaptation for this book is supposedly in the works.

I also googled one of the songs listed in this book and learned it is called “The Highland Fairy Lullaby’.

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3 thoughts on “The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline

  1. This books sounds interesting —will be looking out for it in my local library.

    I just finished “The familiars” by Stacy Halls. It’s based on the 16th century Pendle witches. This was a good read. The most interesting thing was like you said having life life figures in it. I would recommend it, if you space to squeeze in another historical fiction xx

    Liked by 1 person

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