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It's 1857, and these "English passengers" are bound for Tasmania (they think it's the Garden of Eden) aboard a ship lately used for smuggling. When they arrive, genocide is in full swing. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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The brutal hand of British imperialism provides the foundation for this broad historical swashbuckler about the English colonization of Tasmania in the early and mid-19th century. U.K. author Kneale debuts stateside with this lengthy novel of hapless smugglers, desperate convicts, simpering bureaucrats, mad vicars and displaced aborigines. The English passengers are the Reverend Wilson, a vicar determined to prove that Tasmania was the site of the original Garden of Eden, and Doctor Potter, a ruthless scientist equally determined to prove Wilson wrong and gain fame in the victory. They're on their way to Tasmania aboard the good ship Sincerity, commanded by Captain Illiam Quillian Kewley, a high-seas smuggler and rascal of renown. This is an unpleasant voyage for everyone, especially Kewley, for he has been forced to charter his ship in order to escape punishment for dodging customs duties on his illicit cargoes. Storms, pirates and foul tempers, however, are just the prelude to the hardships that await everyone when they land in Tasmania. British self-righteousness in forcing civilization and Christianity on the aborigines causes wholesale slaughter and subjugation of the islanders, and the natives are more than just restless. Wilson and Potter's overland expedition is guided by Peevay, a wily aborigine not about to knuckle under to the white man. Of course, the expedition is a bloody disaster. Murder, madness, betrayal, mutiny and shipwreck spice up the action and provide intricate plot twists with surprising and satisfying resolutions, particularly for Captain Kewley. This rich tale is told by 20 different voices skipping back and forth across the years, but somehow Kneale manages to keep the reader from becoming confused. Kneale's careful research and colorful storytelling result in an impressive epic. BOMC featured selection. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
In his American debut, Britisher Kneale employs a deliciously sly and clever wit to tell his story about the colonization of both the land and the mind. Two plotlines trace the action: one set mostly on a ship sailing to Australia with the mixed mission of smuggling and finding the Garden of Eden; and the other the story of Peevay and the genocidal elimination of his tribe while he grows from a boy into a man. The use of more than 20 narrative voices, each a perfect realization of character, allows for multiple perspectives of the same event as seen at different times. Captain Illiam Kewley is struggling to bring the Sincerity to a port where he can sell his contraband and offload his passengers. Kewley is also unwittingly bringing to Peevay, whose tribe is all but wiped out before Sincerity even sets sail, his ultimate horror and final restitution. Through Peevay's viewpoint readers witness the destruction of the aboriginal people and the piety, vapidity, and maliciousness of those who sought to bring English "civilization" to the outback. As Kewley sails the Sincerity closer and closer to Tasmania, Kneale tightens his story with the elegant precision of a mortise and tenon joint and reveals the stunningly ironic fortunes of his main players. A delight to read. As Peevay would put it, this is a book for "cherishings." --Neal Wyatt