Book review: Behind the Sun

A compelling story of four women who forge an unlikely but enduring friendship.
A compelling story of four women who forge an unlikely but enduring friendship.

BOOK: Behind the Sun
AUTHOR: Deborah Challinor
PUBLISHER: HarperCollins Publishers Aust
RRP: $29.99

THIS is the first book in a new historical series by New Zealand historian and author Deborah Challinor.

It relates the compelling story of four women who forge an unlikely and enduring friendship while confined in Newgate Prison, awaiting transportation to New South Wales.

The undeclared leader of the group is Friday Woolfe, a feisty and streetwise prostitute.

The other members of her band include Sarah Morgan, a clever and deft professional thief, capable and kindly seamstress, Harriet Clarke and the young and guileless Rachel Winter.

The voyage to the new colony presents the group with new challenges, apart from mere survival.

While conditions on board during the 1820s are generally a little better than those endured in Newgate, there are other ordeals to be endured.

Rachel's naiveté makes her an ideal target for the vicious and unscrupulous Bella Jackson who establishes a thriving prostitution racket during the voyage.

Eventually Rachel is seriously assaulted, with Bella party to the attack.

Upon arrival in the colony, the women are transferred to Parramatta Female Factory, where they face the threat of separation as each is assigned to domestic positions within the colony.

This engaging group of characters will captivate readers.

Ms Challinor's research enhances her characterisation and provides a wonderful backdrop for this narrative that seamlessly fuses historical fact and engrossing fiction.

The next instalment will be eagerly anticipated!

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