After a bit of a rainy, damp week, the sun is out and the temperatures are perfect here in Ontario. If that isn’t a great start to the week, I don’t know what is! To keep the good vibes going, Monday means that it’s time for a new My Book Pledge Featured Read, and we have just the book for the job!
Chances are, if you were in any bookstore in the early-to-mid-2010s, you came across Christina Baker Kline‘s Orphan Train. Not only was this book a #1 New York Times bestseller, but it was everywhere. And for good reason – it was a remarkably written book, as shown by its 4.17 Goodreads rating! That’s why we are so excited to announce that this week’s My Book Pledge Featured Read is Christina Baker Kline‘s brand new novel The Exiles, an ambitious, emotionally resonant novel that captures the hardship, oppression, opportunity and hope of a trio of women’s lives in nineteenth-century Australia.
Seduced by her employer’s son, Evangeline, a naïve young governess in early nineteenth-century London, is discharged when her pregnancy is discovered and sent to the notorious Newgate Prison. After months in the fetid, overcrowded jail, she learns she is sentenced to “the land beyond the seas,” Van Diemen’s Land, a penal colony in Australia. Though uncertain of what awaits, Evangeline knows 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 was 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 Aboriginal people for more than 50,000 years, the British government in the 1840s considers its fledgling colony uninhabited and unsettled, and views the natives 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 Van Diemen’s Land.
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 through the experiences of Evangeline, Hazel, and Mathinna. While life in early 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.
What books are you reading this week, Savvy Readers? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @SavvyReader!