Just before I went to Tasmania in November I heard about James Boyce’s Van Diemen’s Land and began reading but didn’t finish it until I came back to Ballarat. It was such a revelation. It may seem like fairly heavy going to read a history book for fun, and I admit, I am developing quite a relationship with Lieut-Governor Collins, who was with the First Fleet, at Sorrento and then Hobart – I even visited his memorial while in Hobart, so you see, I am a sad case – but James Boyce presents Tasmania’s history in such a different way. We all swallowed that story about the penal settlement and so on, but the in-depth history is much more than you could ever expect, and far more interesting, provoking and fascinating than what we were fed at school. Seems every second person is saying they are off to Tassie, this book is really a must-read if you are heading that way or recently come back. The thing Boyce suggests is that all that history is still reverberating in Tasmania, and I think he might be right. Tasmanians are still sliding away and building themselves little shacks in (what’s left of) the forests, and he suggests this comes from convict times, a refusal to be part of the new settlers’ society. He looks to the way people made lives for themselves in remote and difficult places as examples to us in this day and age of climate change, rampant consumerism, and resource exploitation. Even the name change from VDL to Tasmania becomes a little suspect. I suppose plenty will want to argue about what he says regarding the Tasmanian Aborigines as well, but Boyce has certainly done his research. It’s a really really fascinating read; if you love Tasmania like I do, it will become even more elusive and enigmatic; if you’ve never been there, get your skates on! Boyce will prepare you far better than any slick tourist guide.
Rating - I give this 5/5 GREAT!!
Get this from the library
Reviewed by Edith @ Australiana Room