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The Exiles: A Novel

by Christina Baker Kline

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Set largely in the early 1840s in London and Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land, then), The Exiles traces the stories of Evangeline Stokes, an orphan from a small village who comes to London to work as a governess and is seduced by the family's son; Mathinna, a Palawa girl who is adopted/kidnapped by the British Governor's family and taken from Flinders to Van Diemen's Land; and Hazel, a teenager from Glasgow who is arrested for thievery and sentenced to transport. Evangeline and Hazel meet on the transport ship from England to Australia, and Hazel encounters Mathinna when Hazel works at the Governor's house as a conscript maid.

Each young woman has a compelling story; each is largely powerless, trapped in an unjust system, punished far beyond their crimes. Conditions in Newgate prison, the transport ship (a repurposed slaving ship), and the Cascades prison in Tasmania are inhumane: extreme heat and cold, poor sanitation and nutrition (creating the perfect conditions for disease to spread), and no protection from violence by the people in charge.

Nevertheless, at least one story of the three has a happy ending.

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  JennyArch | Jun 26, 2020 |
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