The Exiles

by: Christina Baker Kline

Good Reads Description:

The author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Orphan Train returns with 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 from a fresh perspective, through the experiences of Evangeline, Hazel, and Mathinna. While life in 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.

Helen says: 🤓🤓🤓🤓🤓

I have been sooooo excited to read this book. I loved The Orphan Train by the same author so I knew this one would be good, too. This is my kind of novel – great storytelling, fabulous description and a strong, character driven narrative. You will be hooked on the first page! The characters seem like they have been plucked from a Charles Dickens novel – a trusting to a fault ingenue, a street smart hooker with a heart of gold, and a mysterious, young midwife/healer. I learned so much about the colonization of Australia and the penal colony. Great historical fiction!

Holly says: 🤓🤓🤓🤓 1/2

I loved this book filled with strong women characters and their struggle to survive (or not) aboard a repurposed slave ship and in the harsh world of an isolated penal colony in Australia in the 19th century. Some of the things that the women endured – imprisonment for crimes they did not commit, loss of loved ones, betrayal, and unimaginable hardships – lead you to root for them all the way. The writing is wonderful, the story is fascinating, and the history lesson appreciated. A superb work of historical fiction by Christina Baker Kline – highly recommended!

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