Nearly two hundred condemned women board a transport ship bound for Australia. One of them is a murderer. From debut author Hope Adams comes a thrilling novel based on the 1841 voyage of the convict ship Rajah, about confinement, hope, and the terrible things we do to survive.
London, 1841. One hundred eighty Englishwomen file aboard the Rajah, embarking on a three-month voyage to the other side of the world.
They’re daughters, sisters, mothers—and convicts.
Transported for petty crimes.
Except one of them has a deadly secret, and will do anything to flee justice.
As the Rajah sails farther from land, the women forge a tenuous kinship. Until, in the middle of the cold and unforgiving sea, a young mother is mortally wounded, and the hunt is on for the assailant before he or she strikes again.
Each woman called in for question has something to fear: Will she be attacked next? Will she be believed? Because far from land, there is nowhere to flee, and how can you prove innocence when you’ve already been found guilty?
Inspired by real events and real people, the story of the Rajah and its passengers – roughly 200 women condemned to transportation to what is now Tasmania, is beautifully written, told by several different voices – Kezia the warder, Sarah the convict and a few of the others.
During the voyage a terrible crime is committed and the captain puts together a panel to investigate the women and find the culprit.
In-between interrogations, Kezia and her selected group of 18 women work on a patchwork quilt, the real one hangs in the National Gallery in Canberra. It is Kezia’s hope this work will offer something to the women – hope, spiritual salvation, community.
The long voyage gives them all time to reflect on their pasts and the crimes that have led them here. Most are petty ones – thefts to survive the desperate hard lives they lead, but among them is someone fleeing the noose.
This was a fascinating look at a group of women often forgotten by history, women who were required to be incredibly brave as they were taken away from their homes and families, forced into new lives in a strange land.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.