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The Exiles: A Novel
by Kline Christina Baker

Published: 2020-08-25T00:0
Hardcover : 384 pages
28 members reading this now
104 clubs reading this now
10 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 6 of 8 members
AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

OPTIONED FOR TELEVISION BY BRUNA PAPANDREA, THE PRODUCER OF HBO'S BIG LITTLE LIES

“A tour de force of original thought, imagination and promise … Kline takes full advantage of fiction — its freedom to create compelling characters who fully ...

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Introduction

AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

OPTIONED FOR TELEVISION BY BRUNA PAPANDREA, THE PRODUCER OF HBO'S BIG LITTLE LIES

“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

The author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Orphan Train returns with an ambitious, emotionally resonant novel about three women whose lives are bound together in nineteenth-century Australia and the hardships they weather together as they fight for redemption and freedom in a new society.

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 in Australia. 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.

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Discussion Questions

1. Talk about the reasons Evangeline is first sent to prison and then to the penal colony of Australia. How does her treatment reflect the stature of women in the 1840s—in what was then (along with France) the most civilized country in the world?

2. (Follow-up to Question 1) For fun, consider the disparity between the worlds of The Exiles and, say, Jane Austen's novels, which took place a couple of decades decades before the setting of this novel. Consider, also, that Austen, like Evangeline, was herself the daughter of a clergyman. Would her life have been as precarious as Evangeline's?

3. Describe the conditions—the hardships—Evangelina experienced both in Newgate Prison and on the months-long journey to Australia.

4. In light of the questions above, apply the same topics to Hazel, whom Evangeline meets on the ship. What is Hazel's background and the reason she is sent to Australia?

5. In an outward show of grace and charity, Lady Franklin has adopted Mathinna, a young Aboriginal girl. What is Lady Franklin's actual purpose in bringing Mathinna into her household? What are her true feelings toward Australia's indigenous peoples?

6. Considering the cruelty, hardships, and death in this novel, did you find sections difficult to read at times? If you made it through to the end, why did you persist? What drove you to overcome those painful parts to reach the novel's conclusion? And if you reached the end, was it satisfying?

7. All good historical fiction engages us with real history: it brings the past alive and puts it in the context of living (albeit fictional) human beings—and so we learn. What did you learn about the settlement of Australia that you hadn't known previously?

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by peckhauser (see profile) 02/18/22

 
  "The Exiles: A Novel by Christina Baker Kline"by KJmellen (see profile) 10/27/21

Compelling story that keeps you reading. A part of Australian history that is not always know.

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