Seduced and impregnated by her employer's son, Evangeline, a naive young governess in early 19th century London, is sent to the notorious Newgate Prison and eventually a penal colony in Australia. Though uncertain of what awaits, Evangeline knows one thing: the child she carries will be born on the months-long voyage to this distant land.
Kline takes full advantage of fiction—its freedom to create compelling characters who fully illuminate monumental events to make history accessible and forever etched in our minds ... Kline tells their stories with relentless detail and tests our capacity to endure the most wretched of human conditions. We taste the inedible slop served to prisoners, smell every ounce of human waste excreted, feel the pain of whips on our flesh and, most of all, rebel at the de-humanizing condescension of one people to another ... Kline is a serious researcher and a vivid storyteller ... Kline’s prose is purposeful and urgent ... there is also hope and optimism in The Exiles and redemption, as well as many unexpected side characters ... There are good surprises and turns in the plot which I will not spoil. I developed a keen interest in all the characters and was sorry to leave them ... a tour de force of original thought, imagination and promise.
... poignantly explores the issues of social identity, fate, loyalty, and survival during a time in history when women were 'less than,' and Anglo society believed itself entitled to decimate indigenous tribes living on confiscated land. From the squalid straw floors and suffering of Newgate, to a ship’s dark and foul hold, to a penal colony in Hobart Town, readers follow these brave women on their journey of survival through inexplicable sorrow, hardship, and loss. ... Although the novel chronicles fictional journeys a century past, the author’s commentary on social justice applies today. A masterpiece of historical reckoning, this heartrending story will stay with readers long after they turn the last page.
The writing is vivid, visual, real. And gut-wrenching. The plot twists will shock you ... This novel would be a page-turner if not filled with dark despair at almost every turn, if not its graphic depiction of the raping of land and women. The faint of heart or empathic may need breaks from the pain etched on nearly every page ... Christina Baker Kline’s acknowledgements prove this novel may be her most well-researched, historically true publication to date. She's also a great storyteller who engages you with a character and place fully, making you love them, making it very difficult to lose them ... The author’s quest for complete authenticity will be evident to all readers of historical fiction. It’s amazing these characters are based on real women from this era who bequeathed today’s women freedom by their lives well lived at all costs ... This is a novel for our times, and a novel that will stay with you. It's a perfect book club read. Save it for a time when you feel grounded, safe, but do read it ... The author's ability to weave fact with fiction, tragedy with moments of hope, and the everyday with the universal will leave you immersed, wanting more. You’ll open this novel because of history, read on because of story, and close it knowing more about your own life, right here, right now. Realizing that moments of facing fear head-on lead to moments of the greatest ecstasy and empowerment, that our courage today means more than we could ever predict—to our daughters, and their daughters, to the future of the world.