By Christine Baker Kline
A Story of Suffering, Endurance, and Determination.
THE EXILES is a story of the suffering, strength, and fortitude of three women. The story sheds light on the complicated aspects of Australian history, and the treatment of convict women and the Aboriginal people.
Evangeline is a naive young governess in nineteenth-century London when she is seduced, becomes pregnant, and then accused of stealing and attempted murder. She is sent to Newgate Prison to await trial where she is quickly sentenced to fourteen years at The Cascades in Van Diemen's Land, a female penal colony in Australia.
Hazel, a sixteen-year-old sentenced to seven years for stealing a silver spoon, is on the same convict transport ship as Evangeline. The two women become friends and look out for each other. While Evangeline is unsuspecting, Hazel is shrewd. Hazel, a skilled midwife and herbalist is soon trading home remedies to prisoners and sailors for favors. She ultimately helps Evangeline give birth to her baby.
Mathinna is the orphaned daughter of the Chief of the Lowreenne a Tasmania Aboriginal tribe. The tribal land has been seized by white colonists and the remaining tribe members have been relocated. Mathinna is taken from her tribe by the wife of the new Governor of Van Diemen's Land, as an experiment to see if "savages" are trainable. When the Governor is recalled to London, Mathinna is abandoned in the Queen’s Orphan School, the same inhospitable orphanage where her sister had died year's earlier.
"This is why we can't leave the making of laws to men. They result in travesties of injustice that unfairly burden the poor. And women. Those high and mighty aristocrats, in their black robes and powdered wigs—they have no idea."
THE EXILES is a beautiful story of the resilience, endurance, and determination of three women experiencing tragic circumstances and hardships. Life on the transport ship and in Australia was brutal but the characters were poignant and compelling.
The story set in the 1840s was heartbreaking and gut-wrenching as well as enlightening and captivating. Christine Baker Kline, the author of Orphan Train, has written another touching novel that lifts the veil on a shameful time in the history of humanity, where confined women and children were treated horrendously. Mathinna's character is based on a real-life five-year-old child who was taken away from her tribe and never allowed to return.
Kline's book was written from the heart. She skillfully takes us aboard the transport ship and into The Cascades. Her writing was informed by her experience teaching in a women's prison. THE EXILES has been named an instant bestseller and optioned for television by Bruna Papandrea, the producer of HBO's Big Little Lies. The book would be a treasure for book clubs.
The audiobook is narrated by Caroline Lee who brought all three women to life and did a superb job of conveying Kline's outstanding story.
"Yes, Evangeline loathed this place, but she loathed more the vanity and naivete and willful ignorance that had landed her here."
Publisher William Morrow/HarperAudio
Published August 31, 2020
Narrated Caroline Lee