The author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Orphan Train returns with an ambitious, emotionally resonant historical novel that captures the hardship, oppression, opportunity and hope of a trio of women’s lives—two English convicts and an orphaned Aboriginal girl — in untamed nineteenth-century Australia.
Seduced by her employer’s son, Evangeline, a naïve young governess, is discharged when her pregnancy is discovered and sent to London’s notorious Newgate Prison. After months in the fetid, overcrowded jail, she learns she is being sent to Tasmania, a penal colony established by Great Britain in the early nineteenth century. Though she is uncertain of what awaits, Evangeline does know 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 has been 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 native peoples for more than 50,000 years, the British government in the 1840s considers its fledgling colony uninhabited and unsettled, and views the Aboriginals 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 Tasmania.
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.
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