Thursday, 1 January 2015

Some fiction based on life in early Australia

I'm a huge fan of the website Goodreads for recording everything I've read, or am currently reading, or would like to read. It has an app so I can be in a bookshop or library and see yet another book I'd love to read (so many books, so little time) and all I have to do is scan the book's barcode and Goodreads adds it to my Want To Read list. I can also connect with other readers who like similar things, or with existing friends through a link that uses my Facebook profile to find my friends.

I work in a library as my day job (I know, it's a tough life for some), and see so many books as I'm shelving, as well as getting recommendations from patrons and colleagues. When I'm shelving I have to discipline myself not to read the blurbs on all the books, because there will be too many I'd like to borrow, and I know I don't have enough time to read them all. Maybe if I didn't do any family history I could fit in all the reading, but that's not going to happen!! A month ago I liked the look of a cover I was about to shelve (yes, I know the saying, but if it were true then publishing companies wouldn't need marketing departments) but when I came back from my lunch break it had already been borrowed, & I couldn't for the life of me remember the title or author, just the first line of the blurb. I typed my dilemma into the Goodreads discussion group called What's The Name Of That Book??? and within a few days I had a reply with the exact book I was after. So I found it, read it, and loved it. Result!! Thanks Goodreads community.

The other good thing about Goodreads is the way I can categorise my books into whatever shelving system I like. I created one called Convict/Colonial to gather together everything I've read/want to read/currently reading about my favourite genre, fiction based on Australian convict lives and stories. I find that reading these books helps me envisage my convict/colonial ancestor's lives much better then reading a textbook about the times. My all-time favourite is The Secret River by Kate Grenville, and also the book she wrote about her research process called Searching for the Secret River. When I read the second one I realised how much work it takes to write a good book, not just in the massive amounts of research involved, but the editing process as well. Other favourites are The Burial by Courtney Collins (no relation), and the Convict Girls series by Deborah Challinor. If I read a book I love I try and contact the author to thank them, and ended up corresponding a little with both Courtney Collins and Deborah Challinor. I asked Deborah if she could include a map in the next book so I could refer to it and really know where things were in Sydney in the 1830's as she describes the main characters walking around the fledgling city. She said she'd ask the publisher, and voila! there was a map in the front of Book #3, The Silk Thief. Thanks Deborah!!

If you're looking for some fiction based on convict or early settler's life in Australia here is a list of the books I've read and enjoyed that fall into that category:

  • Surviving Sydney Cove: The Diary of Elizabeth Harvey, Sydney, 1790 - Alexander Goldie
  • An Irresistible Temptation - Carol Baxter
  • Kitty, Amber, then Band of Gold (trilogy) - Deborah Challinor 
  • Behind the Sun, Girl of Shadows, then The Silk Thief (trilogy) - Deborah Challinor
  • For the Term of His Natural Life - Marcus Clarke
  • The Burial - Courtney Collins
  • A Place Called Freedom - Ken Follett (set in Scotland then the USA, but similar vintage)
  • Tom Appleby, Convict Boy - Jackie French
  • The Secret River, Searching for The Secret River, Sarah Thornhill - Kate Grenville
  • The Lieutenant - Kate Grenville (fiction roughly based on the life of Lieutenant William Dawes)
  • To Love Anew, Longings of the Heart, and Enduring Love (trilogy) - Bonnie Leon
  • The Colour of Milk - Nell Leyshon
  • South of Darkness - John Marsden
  • Playing Beattie Bow - Ruth Park
  • The Quietness - Alison Rattle
  • Currency Lass - Margaret Leeson
  • A Woman Transported - Sharon Robards
  • Women on the Rocks: A Tale of Two Convicts - Kristin Williamson
  • The Currency Lads - Peter Yeldham
If anyone has any others to add to the list, please mention them in the Comments below. I'd love to hear of some more!

PS Once I pressed Publish on this post I went to the National Library of Australia's website and searched by subject, coming away with probably 50 new titles to add to my list, some of which I have already read but forgotten to add to Goodreads, like the Potato Factory series by Bryce Courtenay, Sara Dane by Catherine Gaskin, and The Australians series by William/Vivian Stuart Long. My list is 73 books long. Again, so many books, so little time.

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