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.
Oh my gosh! There is so much I want to say about this read. The history, the characters, the drama…Everything is rolled up into one package.
Evangeline has a new job. She is a governess. But, she is falsely accused of stealing a ring. She ends up in Newgate Prison. Never before has she seen anything like this, let alone…live this. She is set for transport to Australia. She knows she will never see England again.
Mathinna is an orphaned aboriginal. She is taken from everything and everyone she has ever known to be on display for the new governor’s wife. How do these two connect…very creatively by the author.
This story follows two story lines, Evangeline and Mathinna. Both are tragic and captivating. Both happen on opposite sides of the world.
Well! Christina Baker Kline did not disappoint! This story is excellent! I read it in one day. I was mesmerized from start to finish. Do not miss this one folks! So good!
Do NOT miss this one! Grab your copy today!