By Sea and Stars: A Book Review

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courtesy of Amazon

By Sea and Stars  by Trent Dalton is the story of the voyage of the First Fleet which brought the convicts from England to Australia between May 1787 to January 1788. This was an interesting novella size historical piece of non-fiction. Dalton, a journalist, used the eleven journal manuscripts still in existence today to bring characters to life, giving voice to some of the men and women who sailed a voice. We have convicts and commissioned officers that made up the 1420 people who endured the trip from England to Botany Bay. We meet the youngest criminal – John Hudson who at 9 is transported for

At times the narrative is poetic “Sometimes history is only a question of size and space. The size of a pox sore on a young father’s forearm. The space between two kneecaps when the working girls of Drury Lane  open their legs… The 17,000 nautical miles and 252 days at sea separating young John Hudson from a great southern prison about 7.6 million square kilometres wide and long with vast blue oceans for walls.” Sometimes journalistic style writing takes over. At other times the actual voice of the person long dead is heard via journal entries. The narrative shows the different view points shifting from convict to officer, Australian aboriginal to future Sydney (as it now is) and back to past again.

The overall wonder of this book is that we learn what a humanitarian Arthur Phillip was. Although slavery had not yet been abolished he had no intention of letting it be part of Australia’s history. He had a vision of creating a new type of society – one without class based on actions and equality. King George III also ordered that the indigenous people were not to be harmed and anybody doing so would suffer the harshest of penalties. A conversation between the locals and newcomers was to be established with the aim of having them contribute to the new colony.

Would I recommend this book: Yes I would particularly for those who enjoy history, those who would like to do a comparision of their own country’s settlement and how the way it was carried out effected the psyche of the nation. The structure was interesting and it was highly readable. All Australians should read it and it should become part of the history curriculum in high schools around the nation.

 

 

About Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am - 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.
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