On Hist Fic Saturday
Let's go back to 1841..
4 March 2021
My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book
The Rajah sails for Australia.
On board are 180 women convicted of petty crimes, sentenced to start a new life half way across the world.
Daughters, sisters, mothers - they'll never see home or family again. Despised and damned, all they have now is each other.
Until the murder.
As the fearful hunt for a killer begins, everyone on board is a suspect.
The investigation risks tearing their friendships apart . . .
But if the killer isn't found, could it cost them their last chance of freedom?
Based on a real-life voyage, Dangerous Women is a sweeping tale of confinement, hope and the terrible things we do to survive.
📖 My thoughts..
A convict ship heading for Van Diemen's Land is the setting for this atmospheric page turner which has as its focus the mystery surrounding a brutal attack on one of the convicts on board the Rajah. This group of 180 women, and 10 children, from all walks of life, are thrown together in the claustrophobic atmosphere of a prison ship. Some are being transported for minor misdemeanors, whilst others have been found guilty of more serious crimes, however, none of them are alleged to be murderers.
Kezia Heyter is the young woman who has been appointed Matron, and as such is in charge of the welfare of this bunch of miscreants. Kezia's idea of encouraging the woman to learn a new skill is the focus for a good part of the story as she chooses a group of some eighteen women with a modicum of needle working skill to help her make patchwork quilt. This mishmash group of women are also the focus when a brutal attack leaves one of the women fighting for her life.
There's a lot of moving about in time but it's interesting to get the stories about some of the convicts and the reasons why they find themselves being transported to the other side of the world. There's a definite divide between the prisoners, the sailors and those who are 'in charge', with the convicts coming pretty low in the pecking order. Kezia Heyter falls between the two as she is in close contact with the women and gets to know their personalities and cares about their well being, but she is also invited to dine with Charles Ferguson, the ship's captain, the ship's doctor, James Donovan and the Reverend Roland Davies, a clergyman who is returning to his congregation. I think what comes across is the latent volatility of the women, their petty squabbles and the indifference which threatens to boil over and when the attack on one of the convicts happens, it truly could be any one of them who has spilled over into violence.
Mixing together both fact and fiction, a fascinating story starts to emerge. The claustrophobic atmosphere on board the cramped and crowded ship is captured well and throughout the story there is a real sense of ennui as the convicts struggle with the boredom of days, and days, of endless sea. Beautifully written and impeccably researched, Dangerous Women is based on the true story of the Rajah's voyage to Van Diemen's Land in 1841. The group of women convicts did make a beautiful quilt as a testament to their hope and persistence which was presented by Kezia Hayter to Jane Franklin, the Governor's wife. It is now held by the National Gallery of Australia.
Twitter @adelegeras #HopeAdams #DangerousWomen