London in 1891: Harriet Cameron is a talented young artist whose mother died when she was barely five. She and her beloved sister Sarah were brought up by their father, radical thinker James Cameron. After adventurer Henry Vincent arrives on the scene, the sisters’ lives are changed forever. Sarah, the beauty of the family, marries Henry and embarks on a voyage to Australia. Harriet, intensely missing Sarah, must decide whether to help her father with his life’s work or devote herself to painting.
When James Cameron dies unexpectedly, Harriet is overwhelmed by grief. Seeking distraction, she follows Sarah to Australia, and afterwards into the Northern Territory outback, where she is alienated by the casual violence and great injustices of outback life.
Her rejuvenation begins with her friendship with an Aboriginal stockman and her growing love for the landscape. But this fragile happiness is soon threatened by murders at a nearby cattle station and by a menacing station hand seeking revenge.
A tale of two very different sisters whose 1890s voyage from London into remote outback Australia becomes a journey of self-discovery, set against a landscape of wild beauty and savage dispossession.
Title: The Philosopher’s Daughters
Author: Alison Booth
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: RedDoor Press
Publication date: April 2, 2020
Availability: Paperback, eBook
ISBN: 9781913062149 (pb)
Number of pages: 356
Price: £8.99 (pb) £2.99 (ebook)
Content/Trigger Warnings: Loss of a loved one [in a nonviolent matter], murder and mistreatment of people, specifically Aboriginals, and sexual assault and PTSD from it.
The sisters were breathed to life within the first couple of pages. I easily fell in love with both, they’re differences and care for each other reminded me of my own closeness with my sister.
It’s really engrossing from the start, I love the time period of the 1890s, but more than that I enjoyed the focus on women’s votes from the start and how radical their father was.
The real ‘story’ though picks up when Sarah goes to Australia, and when Harriet later follows after the loss of their father.
Booth perfectly captures the Australian outback’s wildness and beauty, giving a voice not just to those immigrating but, more importantly, to the Aboriginals as well.
There’s a hard look at what the reality was between races and the hard life of those on a station in the outback, cut off from the city’s laws and ways.
Sarah and Harriet have grown in their time apart and I enjoyed getting to know them as individuals but I did miss their closeness and bond that was hinted at, at the beginning. Though it’s only natural they would diverge paths not just physically of course, but emotionally.
I think I probably could connect with Harriet more, I adored her growth. She always thought she was the strong one but it’s really lovely to see her realize that Sarah is just as strong, if not stronger.
And that perhaps her view of love isn’t as impossible as she quite thought it was in her case. Watching Harriet heal, and try to come to terms not only with the grief of losing their father, but to have gone through trauma on the passage over to Australia, well, it was a bit soothing and self-healing as well. But of course, the troubles for Harriet don’t end at the docks when she gets to Australia and everything comes to a culmination in the end.
A wonderful story, not of romance but of love, in all aspects.
Four out of five huge cups of coffee from me. Thank you so much to Anne Cater and RedDoor Press for a copy of this in exchange for my honest opinion as part of the blog tour.
About the Author
About the Author Born in Melbourne and brought up in Sydney, Alison spent over two decades studying, living and working in the UK before returning to Australia some fifteen years ago.
Her ancestors came to Australia from England and Scotland at the end of the 1800s, before Federation in 1901. Indeed, in 1891, when the novel starts, 32% of the Australian population were born overseas, mostly in the UK. Alison grew up fascinated by the thought that Australia once comprised small colonies, teetering on the edge of the vast continent, and wanted in this new novel to travel back in time to view it through the eyes of two strong young women. The tales of Alison’s late father, Norman Booth, about his years in the Northern Territory also awakened her interest in the Northern Territory.
Her debut novel, Stillwater Creek, was Highly Commended in the 2011 ACT Book of the Year Award, and afterwards published in Reader’s Digest Select Editions in Asia and in Europe. Alison’s other novels are The Indigo Sky (2011), A Distant Land (2012), and A Perfect Marriage (2018).
Alison is Emeritus Professor of Economics at the Australian National University (https://researchers.anu.edu.au/researchers/booth-al). In November 2019, Alison was made Fellow of the Econometric Society, a prestigious international society for the advancement of economic theory in its relation to statistics and mathematics.
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