Review & Giveaway: Behind the Sun by Deborah Challinor

@ Goodreads

Title: Behind the Sun

Author: Deborah Challinor

Published: HarperCollins Dec 2012

Synopsis: Irreverent and streetwise prostitute, Friday Woolfe, is in London′s notorious Newgate gaol, awaiting transportation. There, she meets three other girls: intelligent and opportunistic thief, Sarah Morgan, naive young Rachel Winter, and reliable and capable seamstress, Harriet Clarke. On the voyage to New South Wales their friendship becomes an unbreakable bond — but there are others on board who will change their lives forever. Friday makes an implacable enemy of Bella Jackson, a vicious woman whose power seems undiminished by her arrest and transportation, while Harriet is taken under the wing of an idealistic doctor, James Downey. Rachel catches the eye of a sinister passenger with more than honour on his mind, whose brutal assault leaves her life hanging in the balance. When they finally arrive on the other side of the world, they are confined to the grim and overcrowded Parramatta Female Factory. But worse is to come as the threat of separation looms. In the land behind the sun, the only thing they have is each other …

Status: Read from December 21 to 22, 2012 — I own a copy {Courtesy Harper Collins Australia}

My Thoughts:

Inspired by the lives of Deborah Challinor’s ancestors, Behind the Sun is the first installment of a historical fiction series featuring four convict women transported from England to New South Wales in the late 1920’s.

Incarcerated in Newgate goal, Friday Woolfe, a streetwise prostitute, befriends Harriet Clarke, a timid seamstress, the prickly thief Sarah Morgan and the young and desperately naive Rachel Winter. The unlikely foursome form a bond that supports them through the trials of imprisonment, the long journey to Australia and the unknown fate that awaits them in Sydneytown.

I have always been fascinated with this period of Australian history and particularly enjoyed Behind the Sun for it’s historical detail. Challinor holds a PhD in history and the novel reflects her knowledge, though she admits to tweaking a fact or two to better tell the story.

The novel begins in England where we are introduced to the women and their crimes. All stand accused of theft of some type and are incarcerated in London’s notorious Newgate Goal awaiting sentence. It is Friday and Harriet who first find each other, shortly joined by Sarah and Rachel. Their disparate personalities create an interesting dynamic whose strengths and weaknesses all contribute to their survival. Friday is afraid of nothing, Harriet is calm and practical, Sarah is clever and calculating and surprisingly Rachel, who claims to be 15 but is only 13, turns out to be quite the card shark, growing the funds the women need to buy meagre comforts within prison.

Much of the novel focuses on the journey to Australia where one hundred and fifty women were crowded onto a ship for the 7 month sail. Life aboard the ship is difficult though the women find their own ways to endure, Harriet becomes an assistant to the ship’s doctor, Friday continues to ply her trade with the ship’s crew. Rachel however falls victim to Bella Jackson, a notorious and ruthless madam, whose manipulations results in tragedy for Rachel, leaving her friends swearing to take their revenge.

Arriving in Sydney the women are taken to the Parramatta Female Factory before being re-assigned. Despite being separated the women continue to support each other, especially when tragedy strikes again.

With strong characterisation, Behind the Sun is a fascinating exploration of women’s history in Australia and an enjoyable read. I Challinor plans to follow up Behind the Sun with ‘Girl of Shadows’ (expected in 2013) and I am looking forward to reading more about the women’s adventures in SydneyTown.

Available to Purchase

@Harper Collins Australia I @BoomerangBooks I @Booktopia I @Amazon Kindle

via Booko


Thanks to Harper Collins & The Reading Room I have

1 print edition

of Behind the Sun by Deborah Challinor

to giveaway

(Sorry – Open to Australian Residents only)

Entries Closed – Congratulations Gina B

Entries close January 13th 2013

Winner drawn via

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kate Loveday
    Jan 02, 2013 @ 17:17:30

    This sounds absolutely fascinating! I love this early Australian period -I have read the whole series called ‘the Australians’ years ago – and this sounds similar. I can’t wait to read it. Thanks for the review Shelleyrae.



  2. gab
    Jan 02, 2013 @ 19:28:54

    I’ve always been interested in this period of Australian history too so this book is definitely on my TBR list now! Plus, a story about strong women? Yes please.



    Jan 03, 2013 @ 13:30:39

    This sounds like a really interesting story – thank you for sharing! I will have to add it to my to-read pile.



  4. Mary Preston
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 21:24:38

    BEHIND THE SUN looks like a must read for me. Just fabulous.



  5. cassmob
    Jan 05, 2013 @ 09:07:13

    As an obsessive family historian it would be fascinating to read this book and see how a professional historian has dealt with the topic. Also interesting to compare with a book called The Tin Ticket which also talks about Newgate and female convicts after their arrival.



    • shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
      Jan 05, 2013 @ 14:41:43

      I will have to look for that Cass, I read A Cargo of Women by Babette Smith quite some time ago and was fascinated



  6. Kathryn
    Jan 05, 2013 @ 16:05:03

    Sounds like a fascinating read. Have entered the competition. 🙂



  7. John Kinnell
    Mar 06, 2015 @ 14:53:07

    I have just finished reading “The Silk Thief”. Why are the three ladies still paying blackmail the Mrs Bella Shand after Friday has been told by Mr Meriwether about her Maori head trading?



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