Felon or free man, victor or vanquished, convict or soldier are often merely labels applied by society which a reversal of fortune or shift in political power can readily rearrange. Beneath these labels, over centuries and across continents people have always shared hopes of success and dreamed of an uncomplicated life where their families can be rewarded with peace, prosperity and a place to call home.
The soldier of the title, John, and the convict, Michael, both depart Ireland in 1853 on terms not of their choosing. From opposite sides of the law they seek a better world where identity is based on more than the ability to wield power and prejudice does not reign supreme. In the Antipodes, can opportunity and hard work really shake off Old World identity and permit a man’s true worth to shine through?
Lynch has crafted a compelling tale of triumph over adversity set against a backdrop of colonial Australian history. With astonishing attention to detail and painstaking research he has broken through the usual veneer of one dimensional historical characters to present a richness of context and depth of connection with their world not often found in historical fiction.
Lynch brings into focus the people behind the labels and the uniforms. He entwines fact and fiction with the discipline of an historian and enlivens the past through a successful combination of imagination and restraint. The reader becomes immersed in the tale of the convict and the soldier through detailed descriptions of heartbreaking experiences such as Irish tenant evictions, absorbing onboard accounts of the long sea journey to Van Dieman’s Land endured by convicts, their captors and settlers alike, and the ‘new normal’ daily life under wide colonial skies.
Love, loss and a land of opportunity provide fiery elements for a life-changing journey for the convict and the soldier, and an enjoyable armchair adventure for the reader.
Reviewed by Chris McGuigan
Kensington Review June 2016
Available from Sid Harta Publishers http://sidharta.com/au/