A Far Distant Land

Written by David Field
Review by Janice Ottersberg

In 1788, with England’s gaols overflowing, the Lady Penrhyn arrives in Australia delivering the first of many women convicts, with the New South Wales Marine Corp as guards.  The Penrhyn was one of several ships in the first fleet to sail from Portsmouth and drop anchor in Sydney Cove to establish Port Jackson, the first penal colony.  David Field has written a meticulously researched novel, the first in his Australian Historical Saga series, peopled with real and fictional characters.

The social rules and class divisions from England no longer apply in this new world.  Survival and human connection take precedence.  So, when Daniel Bradbury, Second Lieutenant of the Corp, meets Martha, a convict, on board the ship, their love is free to flourish.  As the native people hide and watch, fearful and curious, the regiment officers and the Governor want to take an offensive approach and shoot if they make an appearance.  Daniel is the only one to show compassion and understanding toward the native Australians and convinces his superiors that aggression would only lead to bloodshed on both sides, increasing hatred and animosity.  The loss of any man would decrease the colony’s chances of survival in this harsh land.  Daniel befriends the chief, who teaches him how to fish, farm, and choose edible foods.  Tension between the two cultures remains, and the men are quick to raise their muskets, but Daniel is persistent in his protection of the native people.  He is an admirable character in his strength, and his empathy and understanding for others.

This novel covers 26 years with Daniel and Martha through their romance, marriage, and the birth of three children.  What really stands out is the depth and richness of history that David Field brings to the story.  I am looking forward to his second in the series, An Eye for an Eye.