Although I thought I knew about transportation, my knowledge, it transpires, is really wafer thin. This fascinating book tracks the progress of the first female convict ship from England to Sydney Cove and attempts to get under the lice-ridden skin of the convicts, the crew and the officers of The Lady Julian[a] which conveyed them to their destination.
The detail is fascinating. The atmosphere is tantalising in that it touches on famous names [Captain Bligh, he of the HMS Bounty, Captain Cook, he who 'discovered' Australia] and exotic places [Rio, Cape Town, Canton]. Most of all the book conveys the behavioural code under which the ever-so-slightly-criminal classes lived. No murderers, rapist or extremist political activists people these pages. It is a catalogue of the extraordinary lengths to which English society went in order to distance itself from its seamier underbelly.
Part work of historical fact, part detective story and part adventure yarn it's well worth a read and packs a lot into its 235 pages [2 fewer than the number of women who left England for Botany Bay aboard the Julian[a].