Wild Island – Jennifer Livett

Wild Island

Hello friends,

This is a review I wrote for Goodreads about Wild Island. If you’re interested in British/Australian colonial history, Tasmania or just like good historical fiction, I highly recommend it. I bought my copy from Cracked and Spineless New and Used Books – Richard was a former student of Jennifer Livett’s – and if you’re not in Hobart I know they will post 😀

Wild Island by Jennifer Livett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m so pleased I read this book! As a fan of good historical fiction, this had the added bonus of being mostly set where I live (kunanyi/Mt Wellington is outside my door) and some of my friends (including my local bookseller) had been taught by Livett when she was lecturing at UTAS.

The use of Booth and Harriet to act as dual narrators is a really good tool for providing depth to the story and defining boundaries of the 19th century world, but it became a little one-sided for most of the middle section. I found Booth’s narrative a good balance and really would have liked more of it, though I can understand why Harriet’s voice took precedence. The treatment of native inhabitants is touched upon but not really examined, which is also understandable given the background and narrative voices used. While I would have liked more on that topic, it would have made a very different book if Livett had taken that route.

There are certainly echoes of Emily Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea (a book I love) and I did appreciate the historically accurate depictions of Hobart, Franklin’s tenure. In general, Livett’s treatment of the Franklin’s is very sympathetic. In particular, I liked her depiction of Jane amid the prevailing attitudes to women at that time. Jane must have been a terrifying modernist presence to many of the male inhabitants of Hobarton!

Overall, this is a well-researched, finely written novel and for anyone interested in Australian (and particularly Tasmanian) colonial history, highly recommended.

View all my reviews

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