It seems, although it wasn’t my intention, that I am filling in the gaps in my reviews of Fifty Books you must Read. First The Recollections of Geoffry Hamlyn, now The Broad Arrow: “being passages from the history of Maida Gwynnham, a lifer (1859). The illustration above is Maida mourning the death of her (illegitimate) baby which is an early event, I guess her seduction, which occurs off-screen, is the initial event, in the chain of events which leads to a well brought up middle class young woman being transported to Hobart Town in the early 1850s.
Caroline Leakey was only in the colony for a few years, staying with her sister in Hobart and recuperating from illness at Port Arthur – she describes Emmeline, who more or less represents her in the novel, looking out her bedroom window across to the front gates of the famous prison, with all its comings and goings. I’m not sure she found it very restful.
To spare Emmeline the fatigue of a rather steep flight of stairs, Mrs. Harelick had devoted to her special service a large front parlour on the ground-floor. It opened on the station, and had by no means the pleasant landscape which enlivened the upper apartments. The lovely Bay, and the Isle of the Dead were not to be seen; but some gardens intervening, beguiled the more immediate sight from the prison apparatus, unescapably conspicuous on a prolonged survey from the bow-window.
The Broad Arrow is a very sermonising work, the way so many worthy nineteenth century novels are, but Maida’s story is well done; there is a wealth of detail about the interactions of free settlers and their convict servants; and the descriptions of place, it seems to me, would be familiar to current residents. I said this to Pam/Travellin’ Penguin and she segued to the Broad Arrow Cafe, the site of Australia’s last mass shooting, in 1996. Pam, I’ll make it to Tassie one day, and we’ll definitely meet over coffee and cake.
I am writing last Sunday, so to speak, as I have work during the week, a road train load for a construction company up the coast to Cape Preston, this side of Karratha; and if I am to post anything at all it will have to be this pointer to my review on the AWWC site.
The last few weeks of work have been very Goldilocks, not too much, not too little, but enough to keep the bank balance ticking over. And speaking of my shaky bank balance, yesterday I got a firm offer for my remaining ‘spare’ trailer – payment due this coming weekend – which I should have sold before buying my new trailer, my new toy Melanie says (rightly!), last September.
You’d think the days off in between jobs would be enough to keep my reading and reviewing up to date, but sadly not. The last few ‘guest’ posts on the AWWC have involved huge amounts of editing as I attempted to abridge 4,000 word papers to meet our 1,500 word standard (I failed. They all came in at around 2,000). But the two ‘projects’ they covered – women’s service in WW1 and female servants in nineteenth century Australian women’s Lit were both enormously interesting.
[Now, today as I post, I’ve come north to Port Hedland to pick up a couple of tray trucks to take back to Perth]
Not the first novel of Australian convict life, that was Quintus Serviton (1831), but a vivid, and the earliest, picture of female convicts in domestic service. Read on …