The Bright Side of My Condition by Charlotte Randall
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When the Captain find us stowaways and give us the choice between join the island or join the crew, all of us to a man cry island! island! So he put us ashore with a few provisions and a trypot and sail away.
After escaping from the Norfolk Island penal colony on a whaling ship, Bloodworth and his three fellow convicts are left on a remote southern island by a captain who promises to pick them up in a year's time.
It will be many years before they see another ship.
Durign that time four men, with nothing in common but a desire to escape and a need to survive, live together in cramped and freezing isolation. Slangam believes hard work will see them though, Toper puts his faith in the divine, Gargantua leans on his learning and Bloodworth watched – both his fellow felons and the inhospitable environment.
Based on the true story of four convicts who spent more than nine years on the Snares Islands in the early years of the nineteenth century, Charlotte Randall's latest novel is a riveting, intelligent and powerful work of fiction.
A Ring Through Time by Felicity Pulman
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Alice Bennett has moved to Norfolk Island with her family who are descended from John Bennett, last commandant of the Second Settlement of the penal colony that was established on the island in the 19th century. John Bennett was a particularly brutal commandant and Allie comes up against long-standing resentment from some of her classmates when she attempts to vindicate him in a history class. Angriest of all is Noah, who is descended from Padraic O’Brien, one of the more outspoken of the convicts. Allie starts to sense her own connection with her past and when she is babysitting for the family who now occupy Government House she discovers a diary and realizes she has uncovered a tragic story.
The story is of Alice Bennett, daughter of the infamous John, who was notorious for the ill-treatment of the convicts under his command. Alice encounters Cormac O’Brien, who is a political prisoner, a gifted musician and possessor of a pair of blue eyes that immediately entrance Alice. They pursue a doomed romance, and tragedy strikes. Alice’s father has been spying on her, and in a preemptive move, orders Cormac to be hanged. Alice’s diary ends abruptly, as she sends her younger sister Susannah to ‘go on to dinner without her’.
Determined to find out what happened to her ancestress, Allie asks a friend in Sydney to see if Alice can be traced. The friend discovers a letter from Susannah, Alice’s sister, to their brother William, explaining what has happened - that Alice, inconsolable at the loss of Cormac, has walked into the sea and disappeared. After the colony is closed up, Susannah goes to Hobart and marries, and William becomes the ancestor of Allie’s family.
In two minds whether to show Alice’s diary to anyone, in the end Allie shows it to Noah, and then to her classmates, in the interests of revealing the truth, and resulting from this, their own developing relationship. Noah, too, has a secret - it seems Cormac and Paddy were forgers, not political prisoners. Allie and Noah, having come to terms with their historical background, are balancing past with present, and moving towards their future.