Book talk: Historical fiction novels


Michael Popple reviews three historical fiction novels by Australian authors.

The Queen’s Colonial by Peter Watt

Macmillan, $29.99

Australia, 1852. Ian Steele has always dreamed of serving in the Queen’s army. This seems impossible until he meets Samuel Forbes who bears a striking resemblance to Ian and has a proposition for him. Ian, disguised as Samuel, will travel to England and become a captain in his family regiment. However, as Ian prepares to fight in the Crimean War, the greatest danger may come from members of the greedy Forbes family.

Watt once again takes the reader on a terrific character-driven adventure. An entertaining new novel from one of Australia’s best historical fiction authors.

Preservation by Jock Serong

Text Publishing, $29.99

In 1797, three castaways are discovered near Sydney. Emaciated and injured, they have survived through hundreds of miles of unexplored bush. Lieutenant Grayling is ordered to uncover the full details of the journey, but the survivors’ accounts are evasive. As Grayling investigates, he discovers that one of the survivors is a dangerous killer with sinister plans for the colony.

This is an intriguing and dramatically fictionalised account of the real-life 1797 shipwreck of the Sydney Cove, and the survivors’ subsequent land journey to Sydney. An exciting read.

The Pearl Thief by Fiona McIntosh

Michael Joseph, $32.99

When Severine Kassel sees the Byzantine Pearls at the British Museum in 1963, she is left reeling. Severine’s real name is Katerina and the pearls used to belong to her family. Forced to relive the horror of her life in Czechoslovakia during WWII, Katerina sets out to hunt down the monster who destroyed everything she loved, the Nazi Ruda Mayek.

This is a powerful read from acclaimed author Fiona McIntosh. Split between WWII and 1963, McIntosh expertly combines a desperate hunt for revenge with shocking descriptions of the Nazi purge. An enthralling historical drama.

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