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First of all, based on the titles I see in this forum, I don't think this writer is likely to suit very many ot the participants in this forum. (About 80% of what I saw described I would categorize simply as pulp fiction with a historical setting). Keneally is likely best known for Schindler's List. I think he writes mostly about Australia. I found The Playmaker out in the garage and posted it. Then I looked it over and took it down to be on my own permanent literature shelf. This book is about the early penal colony that came to be Sydney. He got all the background and many of the characters from historical records, such as what crimes were these early "settlers" convicted of and how did they come to be "transported." His description of early colony life is authentic. It is not pretty. Many of the settlers were common criminals; more than a few were bad to the bone. They were overseen largely by a detachment of Her Majesty's Marines who weren't chosen for the assignment for being good, more the opposite. The book is about what Keneally feels made these people tick, and I don't mean love and romance. The best of them are at least as flawed as the teller of the tale in The Kite Runner. Often he reminds me of Conrad, or the teller of the tale in Mr. Johnson. All of his characters are, in Faulkner's words, "just poor sons of bitches making out the best they can." After reading The Playmaker I intend to lay my hands on anything else this writer wrote. He has a lot to say about the human condition. I would welcome anything else anyone else has to say about Thomas Keneally.
Dr. John T. West, iii
Another book by Keneally that I read and admired was A Commonwealth of Thieves, The Improbable Birth of Australia. I haven't read the Playmaker but it sounds like a great book.
I've read a few other books, fiction and non-fiction, about Australia. The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes was thought-provoking - good, not great writing IMHO. Also Floating Brothel by Sian Rees (wasn't as good as I thought it would be), and The Secret River by Kate Grenville (Booker Prize finalist).