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BOOK REVIEW: Behind the Sun by Deborah Challinor

Wednesday, November 22, 2017




The Blurb (From Goodreads):

Irreverent and streetwise prostitute, Friday Woolfe, is in London′s notorious Newgate gaol, awaiting transportation. There, she meets three other girls: intelligent and opportunistic thief, Sarah Morgan, naive young Rachel Winter, and reliable and capable seamstress, Harriet Clarke.

On the voyage to New South Wales their friendship becomes an unbreakable bond -- but there are others on board who will change their lives forever. Friday makes an implacable enemy of Bella Jackson, a vicious woman whose power seems undiminished by her arrest and transportation, while Harriet is taken under the wing of an idealistic doctor, James Downey. Rachel catches the eye of a sinister passenger with more than honour on his mind, whose brutal assault leaves her life hanging in the balance.

When they finally arrive on the other side of the world, they are confined to the grim and overcrowded Parramatta Female Factory. But worse is to come as the threat of separation looms. In the land behind the sun, the only thing they have is each other ...



My Thoughts:

Deborah Challinor and I shared a stage at the Historical Novel Society (Australasian) conference in Melbourne a few years ago, and so I was keen to read some of her work. She’s a New Zealand author and historian who has written over a dozen books, quite a few of them set in Australia. Behind the Sun is the first in a quartet following the adventures of four young women in the 1820s who are all convicted of various crimes and transported halfway around the world to the convict settlement of Sydney.

There is Friday Woolfe, a cheeky and irreverent prostitute, Sarah Morgan, a cool and intelligent thief, Rachel Winter, young and beautiful and far too naïve, and Harriet Clarke, a seamstress who stole some cloth in the hopes of saving her family from starvation.

Moving from the filth of Newgate Prison, to the hardships of the notorious convict ships, and arriving at last in Sydney, the four women find their friendship and courage tested to the limits.

Written with verve and zest, Behind the Sun has bright moments of humour and warmth and some very dark moments of cruelty and loss. The story races along at a cracking pace, but not once is historical veracity or vibrancy sacrificed for narrative momentum. A really great holiday read with some truly unforgettable characters. 


For another great read about women and crime, check out my review of See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt. 


Please leave a comment, I love to know your thoughts! 

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