In 2006, Dr Kiera Lindsey discovered a faded newspaper clipping describing the moment her great, great, great-aunt, Mary Ann Gill, sobbed bitterly in the witness box of Sydney’s Supreme Court. She was being forced by her furious father to give evidence against the man she hoped to marry. This tantalising clipping compelled Lindsey to rummage through the Australian, British and Irish archives to unearth the story of her controversial ancestor. What she discovered was a story of scandal and intrigue, betrayal and bankruptcy that occurred during a period of dramatic social and political change. It was, after all, the year was 1848 and ‘the Springtime of the Peoples’ – not only in Europe but also in Sydney where the colony was on the brink of self-government.
‘Truth really is stranger than fiction. A youthful and intrepid heroine makes a daring escape down a drainpipe, pursued by her outraged father and disappointed by her down-at-heel gentleman lover. The Convict’s Daughter contains all the elements of melodrama or farce: love divided, love betrayed, and love triumphant. Hardest of all to believe is that these events actually occurred, in a period of Australia’s history often dismissed as dull—and that no historian or novelist has ever before done them justice.Kiera Lindsey certainly does them full justice in this delightful narrative, and in so doing fearlessly carves a new path between the genres of history and fiction. Her most soaring flights of imagination are firmly anchored to a bedrock of archival research as broad as it is deep. Best of all, with a true historian’s sensitivity to person, place and period, she weaves a profound emotional plausibility into this wildly improbable colonial drama.’
Professor Penny Russell, Department of History, University of Sydney
Adelaide Launch: 3 May, 6pm. With ABC Radio’s Sonya Feldhoff.
Melbourne Launch: 24 May 6:30pm. Hawthorn Readings Store. With Radio National’s Arts Today Host, Michael Cathcart.