Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to one of my favourite publishers, Allison & Busby, for my digital review copy via NetGalley.
Do check out the post by my tour buddy for today, Shaz at Jera’s Jamboree. Plus, you can listen to Christina reading an extract from The Exiles below.
About the Book
London, 1840. Evangeline, pregnant and falsely accused of stealing, has languished in Newgate prison for months. Ahead now lies the journey to Australia on a prison ship. On board, Evangeline befriends Hazel, sentenced to seven years’ transport for theft. Soon Hazel’s path will cross with an orphaned indigenous girl. Mathinna is ‘adopted’ by the new governor of Tasmania where the family treat her more like a curiosity than a child.
Amid hardships and cruelties, new life will take root in stolen soil, friendships will define lives, and some will find their place in a new society in the land beyond the seas.
Format: Hardcover (352 pages) Publisher: Allison & Busby
Publication date: 22nd October 2020 Genre: Historical Fiction
Find The Exiles on Goodreads
The Exiles is my first introduction to the writing of Christina Baker Kline. My first impression is of being immersed in the sights, sounds and (unfortunately) smells of whatever scene she’s describing, whether that’s the crowded cells of Newgate Prison or the fetid orlop deck of a prison ship. The horrific conditions Evangeline endures alongside the other female convicts aboard the Medea are vividly described and, for me, was the standout section of the book.
A light in the darkness is Evangeline’s meeting with Hazel which will prove significant, not only because of Hazel’s midwifery skills but also her future role as guardian angel. And, it transpires, she’s not the only guardian angel on board.
The experiences of Evangeline and Mathinna could feel like two self-contained storylines but the author skilfully brings them together through Hazel once the action moves to Hobart in Van Diemen’s Land (what is now Tasmania). But there are also neat little connections, such as William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, as well as broader themes of identity and the silencing of the female voice. For example, Evangeline is identified only by a number once she boards the prison ship but her silencing starts earlier even than that when she is forbidden to speak for herself upon her admission to Newgate Prison. Mathinna is renamed Mary and forbidden to speak in her native tongue; instead she is trained to speak French as an amusing display for Lady Franklin’s visitors.
Having recently read the wonderful Paris Savages by Katherine Johnson, the attitude to and treatment of the indigenous people of Australasia was not a surprise but it was no less shocking for all that. Mathinna’s “adoption” by Sir John and Lady Franklin is an example of the worst kind of misguided paternalism. She becomes part of their experiment in “civilizing” the indigenous people of Tasmania, completely dismissing the value of their culture and way of life. As Mathinna comes to realize, she is “just another piece of the Franklins’ eccentric collection, alongside the taxidermied snakes and wombats“.
In the final chapter of the book, things comes satisfyingly full circle with the prospect of a better, more enlightened future; a fitting legacy for the countless women who suffered so much. The Exiles is an engrossing story of injustice, hardship, loss and overcoming adversity.
In three words: Immersive, dramatic, emotional
Try something similar: Fled by Meg Keneally
About the Author
Christina Baker Kline is the author of seven novels, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Orphan Train, an international bestseller published in 40 countries and with over 3.5 million copies in print. Her essays, articles and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Money, More, and Psychology Today, among other publications. She lives in New York City and on the coast of Maine. The Exiles has been optioned for TV by the producer of Big Little Lies.