Review of Book 1 - Of Angels and Eagles
Magazine of the Fellowship of First Fleeters
BOOK REVIEW - OF ANGELS AND EAGLES- LF McDERMOTT
Those of us whose ancestors lived on Norfolk Island during the years of the first settlement, 1788-1814, are probably acquainted with the well-documented histories of the period. As we have delved into these with their concentration of events largely related to policy and administration we have usually had to try to imagine how our First Fleeters and their families lived from day to day.
Of Angels and Eagles, Book 1 of the Garth Trilogy, the newly published book by Lyn McDermott, gives us excellent insight into the lives and times of the ordinary settlers, seen through the eyes of two families, the Belletts and the Garths.
The author clearly states in her end note, ’while the Garth Trilogy is based on real events and people, it is nonetheless a work of fiction. I was drawn to writing the story of Edward Garth, Susannah Gough, Jacob Bel-lett and Ann Harper as a way of finding answers to the many questions that arose from my discovery of being a great great great great granddaughter of these four souls. In doing so I have travelled thousands of miles with my maternal aunt, retracing the steps of my ancestors and researching their history. In the process of finding answers the Garth Trilogy was written’.
Unlike several other novels of pre-1788 England which go into sordid detail of the low lives of crime-ridden London and other cities, this account is drawn with gentler brush strokes. The crimes that sent the four main characters across the world are mainly portrayed through back story, and the author is to be commended for the clever way the earlier lives have been brought to light and influence the way our characters think and act.
The four souls of the tale, Edward the farm boy, Susannah the prostitute, Jacob the silk weaver and Ann the urchin, generally tell their own stories in the course of the narrative. This technique is masterfully done and sustains the reader throughout. We read on, marvelling at the way each of them build on their background to cope with everyday difficulties of pioneer life. As farmers, boat builders and parents they become outstanding members and leaders of the Norfolk Island community.
There is no doubt, as you read, that Susannah, ’spirited and optimistic’ is the main protagonist, and that it is her inspiration that drives the families and allows them to overcome any problems that come their way. Susannah wants them to succeed, and so do we.
By the end of the book we have been introduced to the coming of age of some of the next generation, and already we have been given inklings as to how their lives will intertwine as the move is made to Van Die-men’s land at the end of 1807.
Your reviewer can hardly wait to know more, and is keenly looking forward to Book 2 of the Garth Trilogy.
Congratulations, Lyn, on your writing. I can’t imagine any descendants of these two families, or those linked to them through marriage as am I, being offended by the creativity you have woven into the fascinating and resilient lives of these your forebears.
A great read, thoroughly recommended.
--Founders Editor Jon Fearon