The Girl From Botany Bay Author:Carolly Erickson Veteran biographer Erickson focuses on Mary Broad, who was arrested for robbery in 1786 and transported in sordid conditions to the new penal colony in Australia. But the book is, more generally, a stark and fascinating account of what prisoners endured: in England, where harsh laws protected property in an era of unsettling social change; on bo... more »ard ship; and in the penal colonies themselves, where the convicts and their guards carved a bleak existence out of the inhospitable environment. Life was particularly harsh for women, who, in addition to the usual deprivations, also endured the threat of rape and the responsibilities and sorrows of raising children in dire conditions. Mary Broad, along with several male convicts and her own young children, made a daring escape in a small, stolen boat. Perhaps fortified by stories of the survivors of the Bounty, they sailed along the Australian coast and across open sea to the Dutch settlement of Kupang in Indonesia, where they enjoyed a few months of ease before their recapture. Despite Erickson's speculations, little can be known concretely about Mary as an individual. Her story draws in the reader, nonetheless, and Mary's brief moment of celebrity, when the escape and the well-timed intervention of the writer James Boswell provides a satisfying end to the unrelenting hardship of her life. -- from Publishers Weekly« less
In the second half of 1700s England was faced with a dilemma: What to do with their convicts. American continent was no longer available for it due to the American Revolution. So, England started looking for a new route. England started sending their convicts to Australia. This is a story of the very First Fleet to arrive. At the heart of the story is Mary Bryant, who was convicted for a highway robbery and sentenced for a transportation to Australia. Carolly Erickson does a great job describing the awful conditions on those prison transport ships, as well as the horrors that were facing the prisoners and mariners once they landed in Australia. Almost instantly it became clear that they were not prepared for a life in a new place: their crops refused to take and grow, the land was not as furtile as it was believed, relations with aborigines people weren't always friendly, the food was running out fast, and no help from the outside world was in sight. Facing a certain death from many deceases or from the famine, several convicts, including Mary, her husband, and her two children, decided on a dire escape. Against all odds they made a journey of over 3600 miles and landed in a Dutch colony. Unfortunatelly, the truth about them was soon out in the open and, once again Mary and the rest of the convicts were arrested and transfered to England for yet another trial. What will happen to Mary now?
This is an excellent story. Clearly it was well researched, however I found Carolly Erickson's writing a little mediocre.
I really enjoyed this book. I saw that others had a lower rating of it, but I cannot figure out why unless they thought it was going to be historical fiction and filled with more 'flair'. Historically very accurate and the story alone is quite rivetting- filled with the exploits of the convicts of England sent to Australia to form a penal colony. Quite literally, from the start, Mary is intended to be a sex slave for the prisoners and crews of the ships sent to what turned out to be Botany Bay. She then escapes with her children and other male convicts only to find herself outed by her own 'husband' and recaptured.
Absolutely fascinating and honest. I really enjoyed this book. It was not a 'quick' read, but a thorough one. I recommend it for history buffs more so than those reading for the story.