Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Beautiful bodies, by Gerald Stone

This is not a novel about celebrities - it's the tragic tale of the first major shipwreck of the convict transportation era.
In August 1833, the Amphitrite, a small ship sailing from England to the Australian penal colonies, was wrecked in a storm on the French coast. She carried 102 female prisoners, 12 children, the captain, crew, medical officer and his wife. Only three survived, and as an English journalist at the scene wrote: "I never saw so many fine and beautiful bodies. The French and English wept together at such a horrible loss of life."
Author Gerald Stone is strong in his condemnation of a journey that was a bungle from beginning to end and of the authorities and the ship's captain and medical officer he sees as responsible for the tragedy.
Stone has written an absorbing book about a terrible event in history and rather than using footnotes to back up his statements, has confined himself to endnotes so as not to break up the flow of the narrative.
And in recording the names of the convict women who undertook that fatal voyage, he restores the individuality and dignity denied them during nearly 200 years of anonymity.
Rating - I give this 4/5
Get this from the library (link to catalogue)
Reviewed by Jan@ Ballarat branch

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