Perseverance, Book 2 of the Garth Trilogy, Lynette McDermott, Sydney, 2017,
The Garth Trilogy is a series of historical novels which tell the story of two First Fleet convict families, the Garths and the Belletts, first transported to Sydney then on to Norfolk Island and finally to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) when the convict settlement on Norfolk Island closed down. The first novel in the series, Of Angels and Eagles, looks at their convictions and their time on Norfolk Island. Perseverance is the second volume and takes up the story after the two families have resettled in Tasmania. Book 3 Lil is yet to be published.
I like reading historical Australian novels and Perseverance was no exception. What made it more interesting for me was that we too have convict ancestors who were on Norfolk Island - Samuel Pyers married Sarah Johnson there and had several children before being moved on to Tasmania. No doubt the families all knew each other as the Island is not that big.
I have always wondered what it was like for our family to start all over again. Yes they had land grants but they still had to build new homes, start new gardens and find new jobs. Thanks to Lynette's writing about her own families' experiences, their loves and their grief at losing family members I can easily imagine that it was a similar experience for our family.
This is an historical novel not a family history so we have dialogue and emotions not usually found in a family history which is mostly reliant on official documents unless you are lucky enough to have surviving letters and diaries.
Perseverance is a standalone novel but I wondered how someone not familiar with the history of the first convict settlement on Norfolk Island might find the novel. Perhaps a brief synopsis of Book 1, Of Angels and Eagles, might help a totally new reader. It is for sale from the author's website , for the same price, for those who like to read serial novels in original order.
Anyone with early convict families in New South Wales, Norfolk Island and Tasmania will find these historical novels an interesting and easy read. The books will leave you thinking about what it was like for your own families to start new lives in a strange land.
More information is available on Lynette McDermott's website and both books can be ordered online.
For those of you who have been eagerly awaiting the next instalment of Lynette' McDermott's story of The Garth Trilogy, you will not be disappointed. In this, the second of the series of three novels, the author takes us, and the families, to Van Diemen's Land where there is a wonderful blend of history, landscape, romance, tribulation and success.
The first book Of Angels and Eagles, featured the two First Fleet families through the eyes of Susannah Garth, optimist and encourager of both her husband Edward and his friend Jacob Bellett, and a great role model whose resilience strengthened family and community bonds and played no small part in the successful development of the new settlement.
In Perseverance, a perfect title for the families as they face hardships and challenges in starting again in an untamed land, the focus is on the second generation, young Mary Bellett and her love for James Garth, the sea-loving boat builder with an eye to adventure.
Early days at Sandy Bay and across the Derwent estuary at Pittwater near Midway Point, are clearly delineated as the families work to re-start their farming lives. Quite early on, however, we can detect that maritime endeavours will form a major part of young James's life through courtship, marriage and the raising of a large family.
Even though there is a shift in location to Port Cygnet and the Huon for James and Mary, their parents and siblings are not forgotten in the narrative. Travel is a significant factor in their lives and the family links are maintained whether facing geographic hurdles such as roads and tempest or more tellingly, social constraints brought about by colonial government policies demeaning and injurious to both income convicts and the aboriginal inhabitants of the island.
It seems that most aspects of well documented early Tasmanian history, from 1807 through to the middle of the century, impact on the families' day to day lives and ultimate well-being. they survive through ever changing colonial policies, the ravages of bushfires and bushrangers, the uncertainty of good health outcomes for their children, the vagaries of southern climate, and above all officialdom's disapproval of their friendship with the aborigines, whose hunting lands were gradually disappearing.
However in all this it is the family members and their resolute and interesting lives that linger in our memories. Read the book, you will be glad you did.
-Jon Fearon- Editor Founders Magazine - October 2017
Featured in A Darn Good Read - blogspot 1 October 2017
Perseverance continues the story of two convict families, the Garths and their friends, the Belletts, which began in Of Angels and Eagles. It spans the years 1809-1864 and focuses on the next generation, primarily James Garth and Mary Belletts.
When the Government decides to close the penal settlement of Norfolk Island, the two families are forced to leave and resettle in Van Diemen's Land.
Perseverance opens with the Belletts arriving in Hobart Town to take up their land grants and to be reunited with the Garths.
Hobart Town is still a military outpost and a penal settlement and, to their dismay, is far more primitive than Norfolk Island. Faced with shortages, rationing and broken promises, the Norfolk Islanders have no option but to accept what they have been allocated and make the best of a bad situation. After twenty years on Norfolk Island, both families now face the challenge of rebuilding their lives in a wilderness. A task made even harder by the threat of starvation, disease, bushrangers, escaped convicts and the escalating conflict between the settlers and the aboriginal people.
James Garth, the eldest son of Edward and Susannah, dreams of a land grant of his own where he can establish a timber mill and boat building enterprise, but not before he has a chance to explore more of the Derwent and Huon Rivers. While Mary Bellett, a daughter of Jacob and Ann, is eager to marry James and raise a family.
I enjoy novels based on the lives of ordinary people. However, like many of our pioneers, the Garths and Belletts were far from ordinary. Out of adversity (transportation to Botany Bay and then Norfolk Island), Edward, Susannah, Jacob and Ann found support in one another and became very successful settlers on Norfolk Island.
After 20 years there, it must have been hard to leave knowing all they had built would be destroyed to stop it falling into the hands of the French (a threat at the time due to the Napoleonic Wars) and possibly being used by escaped convicts.
'I miss Norfolk, Annie,' she said. 'I hate to think about our house being pulled down and whether the fields have been burned.'
A sense of loss and despondency is felt by the older Garths and Belletts, who believe their age is against them, but with their sense of optimism and the help of the next generation, are determined to rebuild their lives.
James has his own vision for the future and is excited about exploring the waters around where his family have settled. He has a keen eye for opportunity and, like his parents, is as determined to succeed. He befriends an Aboriginal boy, Pukara, from the Mouheneer tribe. They communicate by signing and drawing pictures in the sand. From Pukara, James learns a lot about the Aboriginal way of life and believes this knowledge will help him live in harmony with them.
Perseverance is a well written and engaging story inspired by Lynette McDermott's research of her convict ancestors. She writes convincingly of the hardships and challenges the families faced; of the births, deaths and marriages that make up the fabric of all families and of daily lives woven into the history of Van Diemen's Land, with occasional glimpses of what life was like on Norfolk Island.
While there is enough back story included to make Perseverance a standalone novel, it has piqued my interest in the lives of the Garths and Belletts before they arrived in Van Diemen's Land. I am now just as eager to read the first book as I am the final in the series.
For those who enjoy historical fiction set in Australia or who want to know more about the settlement of Van Diemen's Land, Perseverance is a welcome addition to any reading pile.
-A Darn Good Read - blogspot - October 2017
'Aptly titled 'Perseverance', this is the second volume of Lynette McDermott’s 'Garth Trilogy’. It takes up the story of the next generation of her ancestors, the Garths and the Belletts, as they are reluctantly moved from the home they have established on Norfolk Island to the remote penal colony of Van Diemen’s Land in the year 1809.
Following on from ‘Of Angels and Eagles’, ’Perseverance’ is told largely through the eyes of James, the explorer husband, ambitious to the point of recklessness and Mary his devoted, stoic, yet often despairing wife. Their life in Australia’s second colony is harsh in every respect. Illness, accidents and death are everyday occurrences. What ensures their ultimate survival is the strength that comes from fellowship and love of family, combined with a relentless determination.
James and Mary emerge as remarkably resilient settlers in this new land, and McDermott relates their story with emotional force and tension. It is one thing to read a confronting history of convict forebears in a history book, but altogether another to be drawn so intimately into the challenges and sporadic
successes of real families forging a sustainable existence in the early 1800s.
McDermott writes with a strong narrative flow, both her characters and her evocation of the landscape of early Tasmania convincing in their detail.
One salient achievement is the backdrop of shifting political and social history of the time, coupled with a sense of continuing separation from ‘the mainland’. Tasmania, in fact, emerges as a character in its own right with all its beauty and all its undiscovered dangerous terrain.
The saga of the Garths and the Belletts is more than the recreation of a remarkable family history, it is a demonstration that there are rewards to be gained from perseverance, challenging as they may be in the acquisition.
© Margaret Zanardo - 19 October 2017 - Society of Women Writers'
Review of Perseverance, by Lisa Newton a member of the Society of Women Writers, published in the March edition of Women's Ink magazine: March 2018
Perseverance is the second book of the Garth Trilogy. At the outset, the reader is introduced to the characters from the first book, who had no option but to leave their home on Norfolk Island. Upon resettlement in Van Diemen's Land, this book traces fifty-five years from 1809-1864. The ongoing story of the Garth and Bellett family brings history to life as we see them grow through hardship, adventure, heartache, love and loss. Beginning in a new world, there remains a longing to know how loved ones left behind have fared.
The major theme of perseverance is woven through the story, in which the author authentically creates Hobart Town, its rivers and inland areas, which underwent changes as the city expanded.
The reader is engaged through politics, arrivals of convicts and free settlers, and the conflict between the indigenous occupants of the land. Historical notes are added to recreate the times. The despair of Pukara, and the other Aboriginal people felt when mistreated, taken from their land and transport to Flinders Island is described, as well as brutality inflicted at the time on prisoners of Norfolk Island by Governor Price.
James, the eldest Garth boy, dreams of adventure and a better life further away from Hobart Town, up the Fleurieu. In due course, after some initial misunderstandings, he marries Mary, a daughter of the Belletts. Their life unfolds over many years where by the author skilfully engages us in days of tragedy, grief, aspirations, love and endurance. Details of farming, sustainable saw-milling of Huon pine, boat-building and sailing on magical waterways creates images of a place, which eventually belongs to the family when they receive their land grant. James develops as a master shipbuilder and sails to NZ on Caledonia. It will be his last major sea voyage as his family grows and his son Edward begins to discover his own future.
Well-layered characters and dialogue reflect the times, as well as vernacular of countries of origin and status in society. These voices carry the reader through the book which explores notions of freedom, through adventure and ticket o' leave.
Experiences, which transform the lives of the two families, joined together by James and Mary is detailed. Grief and sadness are common. When three of her children die Mary says, 'Death after death ... untimely deaths. What curse is there upon us that my children die?' She holds a conch shell to her ear to hear the sea from Norfolk Island give comfort as life continues. James ponders the death of his children, 'you carry on... the sadness batters further your already broken heart...It is not that life is cheap, just that death becomes more part of life.'
The storyline carries to the end, whereupon the reader wants to know more. I was left wondering about future generations, when the author will introduce the next family of the trilogy, through the marriage of the Garths' youngest son Edward show says, 'One day! One day, I will go further. '