One Minute Book Review – Wild Island by Jennifer Livett

9781760113834

Wild Island by Jennifer Livett is set, for the greater part, in Van Diemen’s Land in the 1830s, a time when, although it was primarily penal settlement, some were beginning to envisage a different future for the colony. The story is told through dual narratives, in the third person concentrating on Charles Booth, the Commandant of the Port Arthur Penal Settlement and in the first person by Harriet Adair, an accomplished artist. Its starting point is a reimagining of the aftermath of the final events of Jane Eyre. Bertha Mason, now known as Anna Rochester, has survived the fire at Thornfield Hall but is in a coma. Believing that Anna may have been married first to Rochester’s elder brother who had made his way to Van Diemen’s Land, Rochester, Jane Eyre, Anna and Harriet, who is Anna’s nurse, sail for the colony. While the search for the elder Rochester frames the story, the Jane Eyre characters fade into the background as Harriet’s story takes centre stage. Although longing to return to England, she carves out a place for herself in Van Diemen’s Land and becomes associated with Jane, Lady Franklin, wife of the Lieutenant Governor Sir John Franklin, the Arctic explorer. In different ways both Booth’s and Harriet’s narratives bring Van Diemen’s Land to vivid life with an extensive cast of fictional and historical characters involved in the social life and political machinations of the time. The fictional characters sit easily alongside the historical characters, all have depth and Van Diemen’s Land itself is is shown in all its raw beauty. This is excellent historical fiction, well researched, well written, with a persuasive narrative.

More detailed reviews can be found here and here.

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One thought on “One Minute Book Review – Wild Island by Jennifer Livett

  1. Pingback: February 2017 | Catherine Merrick

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