Today's review is brought to you by my dad, Colin. Dad read this whilst in hospital and credits it to saving him from hots of boredom,
Colin is a lecturer who has just started to get back into reading for pleasure after years of textbooks knocked the enjoyment out of discovering the wonderful written word.
He is currently enjoying the ecliptic collection of books his daughter has stored around the house.
Two girls are brought together under the worst of circumstances: a prison ship taking them from London to 'parts beyond the sea'.
Miriam is a Romany girl drawn from freedom in the hills of the North-East to London to eke a living playing her tin-whistle in a city where her people are despised. When her mother dies - from cholera, the 'gypsy disease' - she's caught breaking-and-entering and sentenced to transportation. Rose has been brought up to expect more, but when her husband dies and her father is sent down for illegal slave-trading, she's separated from her children and forced to take a governess's job. When she's caught stealing, the judge shows no mercy. Surviving - just - an appalling voyage, the two arrive just after Christmas into the blinding sun of the strange new island: Van Dieman's Land. Here they are sent to work in a nursery, where women of ill-repute give birth before being sent for correction.
The nursery is run by a corrupt, debauched Reverend and his idealistic son, who soon takes a fancy to Miriam. But Rose, her best friend and close confidant, watches jealously and makes plans to reverse their fortunes.
The Night Flower takes the reader on a thrilling Dickensian adventure through the dark side of our penal history to a Tasmanian frontier town where anything could happen and morality is made by monsters.
In the first age of zero tolerance, when minor crimes were punished by deportation to parts beyond the sea, 'The Night Flower' documents the tragic consequences of this primitive punishment.
It follows the unjust, unfair, unscrupulous abuse suffered by those prisoners forcibly taken to the other side of the world.
Sarah Stovell weaves the three main female characters into a frightening tapestry that depicts the terrible conditions endured and the systematic abuse liberally dished out.
Yet Sarah captures the hope and friendships that grow out of these cesspit conditions and offers the possibility of salvation.
However, those charged with delivering salvation are so flawed and morally corrupt that any chance of betterment is lost.
Miriam - Rose - Ma Dwyer and the Reverend Sutton Snr and his son are believable main characters, well drawn by Sarah.
Their lives unfurl before you in a narrative that switches appropriately between them with each contributing to the overall story.
This is a captivating read, where the authors words genuinely conjure a bygone era.