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Book Review: The Exiles

Summary from Amazon: The author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Orphan Train returns with an ambitious, emotionally resonant novel about three women whose lives are bound together in nineteenth-century Australia and the hardships they weather together as they fight for redemption and freedom in a new society.

Seduced by her employer’s son, Evangeline, a naïve young governess in early nineteenth-century London, is discharged when her pregnancy is discovered and sent to the notorious Newgate Prison. After months in the fetid, overcrowded jail, she learns she is sentenced to “the land beyond the seas,” Van Diemen’s Land, a penal colony in Australia. Though uncertain of what awaits, Evangeline knows one thing: the child she carries will be born on the months-long voyage to this distant land.

During the journey on a repurposed slave ship, the Medea, Evangeline strikes up a friendship with Hazel, a girl little older than her former pupils who was sentenced to seven years transport for stealing a silver spoon. Canny where Evangeline is guileless, Hazel—a skilled midwife and herbalist—is soon offering home remedies to both prisoners and sailors in return for a variety of favors.

Though Australia has been home to Aboriginal people for more than 50,000 years, the British government in the 1840s considers its fledgling colony uninhabited and unsettled, and views the natives as an unpleasant nuisance. By the time the Medea arrives, many of them have been forcibly relocated, their land seized by white colonists. One of these relocated people is Mathinna, the orphaned daughter of the Chief of the Lowreenne tribe, who has been adopted by the new governor of Van Diemen’s Land.

In this gorgeous novel, Christina Baker Kline brilliantly recreates the beginnings of a new society in a beautiful and challenging land, telling the story of Australia from a fresh perspective, through the experiences of Evangeline, Hazel, and Mathinna. While life in Australia is punishing and often brutally unfair, it is also, for some, an opportunity: for redemption, for a new way of life, for unimagined freedom. Told in exquisite detail and incisive prose, The Exiles is a story of grace born from hardship, the unbreakable bonds of female friendships, and the unfettering of legacy.

If you’re waiting to read “The Duke and I”…

“Five years ago, Lady Violet Grey and Lord James Audley met, fell in love, and got married. Four years ago, they had a fight to end all fights and have barely spoken since.” And because this is a romance novel, we know they fall in love again by the end, but how they get there is another story. This novel by Martha Waters is considered a “laugh-out-loud Regency romp-if you loved the Bridgertons, you’ll adore To Have and to Hoax!“. In this fresh and hilarious historical rom-com, an estranged husband and wife in Regency England feign accidents and illness in an attempt to gain attention—and maybe just win each other back in the process. And if you are doing the 2021 Reading Challenge, this book covers #17 and #35!

Book Review: Piranesi by Suzanne Clarke

“Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant.”

This is the setting of Piranesi, a beautiful and enormously creative new novel by Susanna Clarke that is equal parts mystery novel, survival story and journey of self discovery. The reader follows Piranesi “The Beloved Child of the House” as he gathers food and supplies from the House’s seas while occasionally receiving gifts from his only friend, the enigmatic Other. As Piranesi journeys through his home, aids the Other in the search for some lost and secret knowledge, and delves into the mysteries of his own past. All the while readers are given glimpses of the strange and wonderful world that Piranesi inhabits, and the many shadowy corners of Piranesi’s own mind.

Piranesi is one of the best books I have read in years, and one that stuck with me long after I had finished it. I’d recommend Piranesi to readers who enjoyed Circe, House of Leaves, or The Ocean at the End of the Lane.