This has been an interesting and at times fascinating book to read. I enjoyed getting to know Kieran and Eve, learning about the challenges they faced both before and after arriving in Australia in the mid nineteenth century. The story is very strongly built around the Australian history of that time. There is a glimpse of early Sydney and the difficulties faced by both newly arrived convicts and the poor early settlers. There are the gold mines in both NSW and Victoria and the hardships faced by the miners trying to eke out a living in very tough conditions. There is also a strong emphasis on justice and equity. There is a lot to like about this story because ultimately it is about hope. Unfortunately, for me, there was just too much going on - an attempt by the author to weave in as much history to the story as possible. The result is that the pacing is quite slow for much of the book. I struggled to stay interested in the story at times and it felt like a much longer book than it actually was. Having said that, it is a good story. The characters are nicely rounded and believable and I think that this was what kept me turning the pages. I wanted confirmation that all would be well and I got it in the end.
In 1851, the Clancy family of County Clare are offered free passage to Australia, and the promise of land to farm. Kieran, his brother Liam, their sister Eileen, her husband Rory and their children will travel together. It’s an opportunity for a new start, away from the poverty and famine, away from landlords.
In 1851 (in Liverpool, England), young Eve Richards loses first her father and then her position. Her struggle to survive sees her arrested, convicted and transported to New South Wales. A chance encounter with Kieran Clancy in Parramatta sees Eve assigned to a good position with a Captain and his wife.
Kieran is restless, and gold-fever draws him from the farm to the Victorian goldfields. He’s destined to meet Eve again, and perhaps they’ll have a life together. But kind-hearted Kieran, trying to help a mate, finds himself caught up in the events of the Eureka Stockade. And Eve, thinking him lost, is shipwrecked while sailing to Adelaide.
If you want to know how it all ends, then you’ll need to read it for yourself. It’s a lovely story in which both coincidence and luck have a part to play. If you enjoy historical fiction set in colonial Australia, then you may wish to add this novel to your reading list. While some aspects of the story worked for me better than others, I enjoyed Ms O’Connor’s depiction of events and places. And I always enjoy a (mostly) happy ending.
Note: My thanks to NetGalley and HQ Fiction for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.