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A powerful, emotionally resonant novel that captures the hardship, oppression, opportunity and hope of four women’s lives—three English convicts and an orphaned Aboriginal girl—in nineteenth-century Australia.
Christina Baker Kline has established herself as a novelist who plumbs noteworthy but little-known facets of the past, and The Exiles marks her third foray into the genre. While Orphan Train and A Piece of the World were grounded in American history, The Exiles makes a bold geographic and cultural leap, and confirms Christina’s place among the finest talents writing today.
While most English convicts transported to Australia were men, 25,000 were women. Christina explores the development of Australia from a fresh perspective, telling the story of this fascinating, blood-soaked land and its legacy with the grace, beauty, empathy, and insight—and the rich, full-bodied characters—that are the hallmarks of her work.
“Master storyteller Christina Baker Kline is at her best in this epic tale of Australia’s complex history—a vivid and rewarding feat of both empathy and imagination. I loved this book.” — Paula McLain, New York Times Bestselling author of The Paris Wife
“The Best Books of 2020,” RealSimple.com, 8/20
“Ten Most Anticipated Books for August,” HuffPost.com, 8/20
“Bruna Papandrea to Develop Christina Baker Kline’s THE EXILES as TV Series (Exclusive),” Variety, 7/15/20
“THE EXILES Optioned by One of the Only Female-run Production Companies,” Women and Hollywood, 7/17/20
THE EXILES wins the AudioFile Earphone Award for Caroline Lee’s audiobook narration, Audiofile Magazine, 8/20
LibraryReads selection, LibraryLoveFest.com, 8/20
“What to Read Next: Most Anticipated New Releases,” HastyBookList.com, 7/20
“Can’t Wait to Read Wednesday,” ForeverLostinLiterature.com, 7/20
September Book Club Pick, “Wine&Words” with BookClubGirl.com
Seduced by her employer’s son, Evangeline, a naïve young governess in early nineteenth-century London, is discharged when her pregnancy is discovered and sent to the notorious Newgate Prison. After months in the fetid, overcrowded jail, she learns she is sentenced to “the land beyond the seas,” Van Diemen’s Land, a penal colony established by Great Britain. Though uncertain of what awaits, Evangeline knows one thing: the child she carries will be born on the months-long voyage to this distant land.
During the journey on a repurposed slave ship, the Medea, Evangeline strikes up a friendship with Hazel, a girl little older than her former pupils who was sentenced to seven years transport for stealing a silver spoon. Canny where Evangeline is guileless, Hazel — a skilled midwife and herbalist – is soon offering home remedies to both prisoners and sailors in return for a variety of favors.
Though Australia has been home to Aboriginal people for more than 50,000 years, the British government in the 1840s considers its fledgling colony uninhabited and unsettled, and views the natives as an unpleasant nuisance. By the time the Medea arrives, many of them have been forcibly relocated, their land seized by white colonists. One of these relocated people is Mathinna, the orphaned daughter of the Chief of the Lowreenne tribe, who has been adopted by the new governor of Van Diemen’s Land.
In this gorgeous novel, Christina Baker Kline brilliantly recreates the beginnings of a new society in a beautiful and challenging land, telling the story of Australia from a fresh perspective, through the experiences of Evangeline, Hazel, and Mathinna. While life in Australia is punishing and often brutally unfair, it is also, for some, an opportunity: for redemption, for a new way of life, for unimagined freedom. Told in exquisite detail and incisive prose, The Exiles is a story of grace born from hardship, the unbreakable bonds of female friendships, and the unfettering of legacy.
Reviews of The Exiles
“Monumental. This episode in history gets a top-notch treatment by Kline, one of our foremost historical novelists. This fascinating 19th-century take on Orange Is the New Black is subtle, intelligent, and thrillingly melodramatic.” — Kirkus (starred)
“A tour de force of original thought, imagination and promise … Kline takes full advantage of fiction — its freedom to create compelling characters who fully illuminate monumental events to make history accessible and forever etched in our minds.” — Houston Chronicle, 8/3/2020
“Although men are credited for “discovering” and “taming” Australia, they play a very small role in this 19th-century-set novel from Kline (A Piece of the World), which tells of the women’s stories—not only that of the convicts, but also those who came freely, and, most important, those who were there first—the Aboriginal people. Both uplifting and heartbreaking, this beautifully written novel doesn’t flinch from the ugliness of the penal system but celebrates the courage and resilience of both the first peoples and the settlers who came after, voluntarily or not, to create a new home for themselves and their children.” — Library Journal (starred review), 7/17/2020
“In the gripping latest from Kline (Orphan Train), three women try to carve out lives in mid-19th-century colonial Australia…. The women, all brought to their new lives against their wills, become a lens through which to see the development of colonial Australia. Filled with surprising twists, empathetic prose, and revealing historical details, Kline’s resonant, powerful story will please any historical fiction fan.” — Publishers Weekly, 7/1/2020
“As in Orphan Train, Kline deftly balances tragedy and pathos, making happy endings hard-earned and satisfying … Book groups will find much to discuss, such as the uses of education, both formal and informal, in this moving work.” — Booklist, 6/30/2020