#aww2018 · 2018 Reviews · Australian · book bingo · history · non-fiction · true crime

#Book Bingo 2018: ‘A non-fiction book’ – The Suitcase Baby by Tanya Bretherton

Book bingo 1 Sep.jpg

#Book Bingo 2018 is a collaboration challenge I am completing with my favourite blogger, Theresa Smith WritesHow does it work?  We have devised our own personalised book bingo card game. Twice a month, on the first and third Saturday of the month, Theresa and I will complete a book review post, outlining our respective bingo card entries. The book bingo card contains a total of 25 squares, which we will complete over the course of the year. To accommodate all the squares, we will be posting additional entries in the months of March and June, this will ensure that we stay on track to complete the book bingo game by December. To keep things interesting for ourselves and those following along with us, the choice of bingo square to be covered will be entirely down to us. We invite you to join us in this fun book related challenge, by linking your bingo card entries in the comments section of this post or by visiting Theresa Smith Writes.

True history that is both shocking and too real, this unforgettable tale moves at the pace of a great crime novel.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, 17 November 1923, a suitcase was found washed up on the shore of a small beach in the Sydney suburb of Mosman. What it contained – and why – would prove to be explosive.

The murdered baby in the suitcase was one of many dead infants who were turning up in the harbour, on trains and elsewhere. These innocent victims were a devastating symptom of the clash between public morality, private passion and unrelenting poverty in a fast-growing metropolis.

Police tracked down Sarah Boyd, the mother of the suitcase baby, and the complex story and subsequent murder trial of Sarah and her friend Jean Olliver became a media sensation. Sociologist Tanya Bretherton masterfully tells the engrossing and moving story of the crime that put Sarah and her baby at the centre of a social tragedy that still resonates through the decades.

My review:

The Suitcase Baby is a classic example of compelling true crime, from an Australian and historical point of view. This is one chill to the bone case, that sees author Tanya Bretherton illuminate crimes involving the intended deaths of newborns and infants in the 1920’s.

The sad story of The Suitcase Baby begins in the November of the year 1923, when a group of children on a picnic witness something horrifying. A suitcase is found washed up on the shores of a small stretch of coastline in Sydney, near Mosman. When it is opened up, the contents prove to be quite shocking and the fallout is hard hitting. The case of a murdered baby in a suitcase is unfortunately only one of a litany of other cases that defined the age in which it was discovered. These poor unsuspecting infants, who were not given a chance at life, were sadly discarded in all areas of Sydney, from parks to drains and the harbour. On closer inspection, it becomes clear that the stories behind the babies being abandoned has much to say about the moral codes of Australian society at this time. It also highlights the social conditions of those forced to make the decision to end their child’s life in this manner. In the particular case of the woman charged with the suitcase baby case, Sarah Boyd, Tanya Bretherton exposes a story and a murder trial marked with many grey areas. The involvement of a second woman in this case, a Jean Olliver, complicates matters of this case further. At the time, this case was covered heavily by the media, who sensationalised much of the story. The crux of the tale has much to say about the grounds on which Sarah Boyd and her accomplice felt there was no other option but to pack Sarah’s baby in a suitcase and send it off to its death. This is a tragic tale that echoes the events that defined 1920’s society.

I was looking for a non-fiction tale to cover book bingo 2018 and I’ve seen plenty of buzz around The Suitcase Baby by Tanya Bretherton around the social media sphere. This book has also been shortlisted for the 2018 Ned Kelly Award for best true crime novel and I can see why it has been attracting plenty of positive attention. I find it problematic to say that I enjoyed this novel, but I definitely appreciated the way it was written and the information that was brought to light. Most of all, I liked the way in which Tanya Bretherton transported me to the streets of Sydney and the provided a solid sketch of life for the working class, especially drawing our attention to the conditions of women living in the 1920’s.

The Suitcase Baby is divided into twenty one chapters, along with an acknowledgments and end notes section which I do recommend perusing after finishing the book. The book opens outlining the grim discovery of the ‘suitcase baby’ and it is an eye-opening kick-start of events. The Suitcase Baby provides a detailed overview of the social and moral conditions of 1920’s Sydney. Infanticide is examined in great detail, along with the conditions for women living in Sydney at this time. A comprehensive look at the suitcase baby case is relayed, including information on the police work, trial, verdict, incarceration and the media attention attached to this case. What stood out most for me was not the case itself, but they way in which Bretherton exposes the murky underworld of Sydney’s streets and the conditions that proved ripe for the suitcase baby to occur. It really is a sad and sorry state of affairs.

This is an exceptionally well researched book and I found myself engrossed, even though I was surprised by how straightforward and quick it was to solve the suitcase baby case. The subject matter is grim, so a trigger warning must be issued, but I feel it is important that we are made of aware of the events that occurred in our not too distant past. The tone Bretherton takes to presenting all the information pertaining to the suitcase baby case is empathetic and accessible. Plenty of facts are relayed, but the book is not bogged down by over information. Rather, it provides a strong picture of all facets that contributed to this case and many others.  I found myself overawed by the economic, social, moral, health, gender and immigrant issues linked to this story. It even puts the spotlight on the ‘flapper phenomenon’ which all seemed to play a part in this social tragedy.

Equal parts illuminating and frustratingly sad, The Suitcase Baby is a book that unearths a torrid state of affairs from our nation’s past. The Suitcase Baby raises of plenty of questions and will incite plenty of thought about the conditions for women, the working class and immigrants that came to our shores in search of a better life in the ‘lucky country’.  This is a fascinating case and I firmly believe Tanya Bretherton has done a remarkable job in bringing this true crime tale to the surface of our collective minds.

The Suitcase Baby by Tanya Bretherton was published on January 30th 2018 by Hachette Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of The Suitcase Baby, Tanya Brethertonvisit here

The Suitcase Baby, is book #110 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge


20 thoughts on “#Book Bingo 2018: ‘A non-fiction book’ – The Suitcase Baby by Tanya Bretherton

  1. #Book Bingo 2018: ‘A book with a one-word title’ – Storyland by Catherine McKinnon

    ‘This land is a forever land.
    The clock ticks to a different time.’

    When I heard about this book I wanted it, boy did I want it bad. I mean, c’mon, how often is a fiction book set on the banks of Lake Illawarra! And then to discover the author was giving a talk at Wollongong Library, well, I eagerly attended and I left happy as Larry with a signed copy.

    I live very close to the Lake and only one street over from Hooka Creek and not too far from Mullet Creek. The area and waterways has been our playground for many years – we take our dog for a stroll alongside Hooka Creek, we power walk on the shared pedestrian cycleway next to the lakes foreshore as well as picnicking, and kayak on Mullet Creek, so it was absolutely fascinating reading about the area I live in.

    Storyland is an interesting voyage into Australian history spanning four centuries. It was cleverly structured and I loved the connecting stories, each one narrated by five different people. The story opens in 1796 with Will Martin, a young cabin boy sailing with Matthew Flinders and George Bass, on the Tom Thumb, traveling south from Sydney Cove to the Illawarra and then advances to 1822, Hawker, an ex convict who commits a brutal crime, and in 1900, we have Lola who runs an isolated dairy skirting the Five Islands Estate with her half brother and sister, who are thought to be guilty when a young girl goes missing, Storyland then skips to 1998, Bel, a 10 year old girl goes rafting with two boys and gets involved with a young woman and her violent boyfriend, 2033 and 2717 run together, Nada, the fifth and last voice in this superb tale, sees her land crumble around her, climate catastrophe has caused severe destruction.

    The writing is exquisite and the flowing descriptive language is intoxicating.

    An outstanding read. Highly recommended.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My apologies Sue. I did see your review come through, but as I’ve been chasing my tail for the last few days, I’ve been saving it for a nice free moment where I can read your review thoroughly and respond! Well what a delightful review and a wonderful choice for this round. Thanks so much for taking the time to play along and post such a great review.
      This one caught my eye over the weekend as I compiled my romance roundup for the AWWC. I’ve seen plenty of reviews around it too. I must try and seek a copy out, perhaps from the library in the next school holidays. With a glowing endorsement of exquisite writing and intoxicating language it seems this one comes highly recommended. I love the sound of the history and of course the setting too.
      How was the talk?


      1. No need to apologise – I need to be more patient, lol.

        Thanks so much Amanda. Storyland is a little unusual but the writing flowed so beautifully it’s a dream to read. When you do read it I will be waiting with bated breath to read your review. The talk was ok but not as flowing as her book, to give you some idea April walked out after 10 minutes.

        Your review of The Suitcase Baby is really interesting so much so I’m adding it to my TBR list. Great choice too and a square I still need to fill, I’m finding it hard to choose one at the moment all the non fiction books I own seem insignificant, I mean, I can’t wait to read them but I’m not sure they’re right for book bingo.


      2. Thanks for your understanding Sue, it’s been a long week and net week will be much the same. I’ve picked up more work (just relief) but I’m also trying to log in 100 hours of professional training to keep my teacher registration, so there have been some late nights and travel to training courses. Oh and I helped at our school’s fathers day evening. Not much time or energy for reviews! They are falling by the wayside! The holidays are in 2 weeks so I’ll catch up then. Sadly I failed our challenge for last month too 😦 I still have my q book to read! So apologies if I have been slow answering the blog or goodreads comments. Please know I appreciate them!
        Hmmm… that talk sounds interesting. Shame April walked out! I hope you were able to enjoy it. I was a great choice of book. I’m going to investigate a library copy in the holidays.
        The Suitcase Baby was good, I have quite a few non fiction books to choose from but this appealed at the time! A good combo of history and true crime. I hope you can find a suitable choice for your own reading of this square. I’ve left the hard ones til last, so the downhill stretch is going to be difficult!


  2. Oh, your life sounds frenetic at the moment but I’m sure everything you’re doing is also exciting!
    Hehehe, I noticed that your q book was missing, you’ll catch up I’m sure.
    I too have left the hard ones til last, not such a good idea as I now wish I had of read them in the beginning when life wasn’t as hectic! My challenge books are finishing just on time so I’m not sure how I’ll go with the harder ones or if I’ll even have the bingo ones ready on time 🙁
    A question for you: I’ve forgotten which month we’re to read three books for the a-z author challenge, I’m thinking perhaps it’s December?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes life is so busy at present but hopefully by the end of this week it will slow down. A box of books arrived today and I groaned. Normally I would be cover the moon! I’m so far behind! I’m still hoping to sneak in q at some stage, even if it is closer to the school holidays (less than 2 weeks now). So it’s good to hear you also left the hard ones til last. I think Theresa is much the same. I wish I tackled these months ago too. I hope since this message you have gained a handle on completing the challenge and bingo books on time. I’m confident you can do it as you’ve been successful so far.
      Yes , in answer to your question we are reading 3 challenge books in December. I’m still unsure what to do about x as I haven’t got any idea of a book to read or appeals!


  3. Oh, lucky lucky you receiving a box of books but I can see why you would groan, lol, I’m groaning without a box of books, hehehe. I think next year I might slow down a bit and give reading challenges a one year miss.
    And yes, yes definitely sneak in your q challenge book even if you don’t have time to read it until next month, you’ve come so far it would be a shame to stop now.
    And no, have not gained a handle on completing the bingo books on time, we’re finally fixing our hallway, we’re sanding down the green doorways to get ready to paint it a brownish colour as it is too hard to replace all the skirting and architraves with new timber, so we’re matching up the paint with the half the house that has timber everything. And I’m helping so reading is taking a backseat at the moment. Instead of watching tv tonight I will read my butt off unless Steven wants to go to the club then I’m doomed, lol. If the review isn’t ready by Saturday I will post it to your blog through the week and it’s going to be a super short one! I won’t give up as I do want to complete all our challenges.

    And December is such a busy month, here’s fingers crossed we manage our three books! I’m going to cheat a little and choose some novellas. Well, one at the moment, my ‘s’ book is a novella.

    I have my x chosen, I looked far and wide as I wanted the x to be the surname’s initial and not somewhere in the middle or the authors first name. I have chosen On Her Own Two Wheels by Stacy Xavier – the book sounds good and it has positive reviews on Amazon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, glad you found some humour and understanding in my groaning over the book boxes. I was actually happy today and yesterday I had no book deliveries! I’m not ungrateful, just rather snowed under and some of these books I haven’t requested. I am with you on the challenge, I think I will have to cut it or book club or both. I’m struggling to keep up with just the review books and barely getting to the books I really want to read on my shelves. Yes it would be shame to give away the challenge at this stage, so I’m going to try my hardest to squeeze 3 in this month. School hols will help. I hope we are both successful in fitting in the last 3 books for the challenge in December. It is a busy month but my kids break up for the summer holidays so I’m hoping this will help! Don’t worry about the book bingo, when you get time feel free to post at your leisure. Please know I value you participation.I scrambled to squeeze one in this time, it came up too quick! Good news on your x read, glad you found something that appeals. I’m not sure what I am going to do. It will have to be a physical book as my e reader is out of action. Perhaps a library visit. is needed. I’m keen to hear all about your choice.
      Novella’s a good way to cover all bases, great idea.
      Sounds like you have been busy on the home front, lots of hard work and renos. I hope it is going well and you are pleased with the results. I’m sure tv watching would be very appealing after all that hard work.


  4. Well, I have my fingers crossed no boxes will arrive on your doorstep today, hehehe.
    Even though I’m getting through a lot of my books due to the reading challenges it’s still demanding time wise, but I was going to suggest an easy challenge for us to keep going as we’ve been doing great and having fun with them and there are so many cool reading challenges it would be a shame to give them up completely and next year would be our third year so wouldn’t it be awesome to say, ‘wow, we’ve been doing this for 10 years?’ lol. So here’s my suggestion but only, only if you want to, how about an easy challenge like, we read one male author each month, what do you think? But if you want to give one year a miss I will completely understand.

    And yes, I definitely know you value my participation, it’s all in the reply you give for my book bingo review. You’re a beautiful and kind soul. Xoxo

    That’s a shame about your e-reader, even though I have my Kindle app which is really cool I’m thinking of getting the Kindle Paperwhite but like you I too love holding physical books in my hand but the Kindle sure comes in handy for certain books/novellas and there are a lot of indie authors I support and their books are only available as ebooks and it’s good for those times I need a quick read or certain book for our a-z author challenge. Lol.

    We’ve finished the hard reno’s inside the house, phew, we decided to paint the hallway walls, skirting and architraves all white as it was too hard to match up a brown colour to the timber, any brown paint would have looked cheap and nasty as timber has various brownish shades, and the white looks amazing, I thought the white would look out of place but it doesn’t and looks terrific with the timber doors all we have to do now is replace the green doors in the main bedroom and spare room. And next week Steven is going to paint the main bedroom white and one day when I see my dream bedroom suite it will be ready to put in place. And in my dining room I’ve cleaned out the buffet and hutch ready for a new one to take its place, we’re going shopping this week, finally after 32 years everything is coming together! Also buying a narrow hallway table as the hallway is quite long and to break up all the white, we’re also going through our overseas photos, as the hallway walls have pretty much been blank for 32 years so it will be nice to display photos from our overseas trips. When it’s all done I will probably post photos on FB.

    Well, I better get reading! Lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The finger crossing must have worked, as I have had a quiet few days for deliveries! Never before have a dreaded book parcels, I don’t know what is wrong with me! I’m glad you understand the demands of the challenges and reading – plus reviewing time. I’m find it hard to keep up on all fronts at present. I had to sneak in a kids book for book bingo as it was all I had time to read/review. Life is far too busy at present, I’m so looking forward to the holidays where we will be away for a few days. I like your idea for a challenge next year, it is certainly achievable. It would be a shame to give it a miss and I am with you on seeing what we have achieved in ten years time. So lets give it a go. I really should read more male authors, there are many aussie male authors I have sitting on my Everest I’d love to knock off!
      Thank you for your patience again and my gaps in responding, some days I can’t get to wordpress (my blog) and goodreads, so facebook is usually the only one that gets my attention. Right back at you my dear friend, thanks for your unconditional support!
      Yes it is a shame about my e -reader for the flexibility and choice. I agree with all you say about kindles but it just doesn’t beat a physical copy, especially for reviewing. I’m not sure what the long term plans are for a replacement I really can’t afford a new ipad.

      Wow Sue, just wow, you have been such a busy bee with the house. It sounds exhausting but satisfying all the same. I hope you will be posting some pics for us. I’ll be looking forward to seeing the results of your hard work. I like the sound of everything you have completed, especially the overseas pics on the walls, how nice to be reminded of such great memories. I hope you are enjoying your reading xx


  5. Nothing wrong with you Amanda, I think you just need a break from all the many book deliveries and reviewing, so I’m glad to hear you’re going away for a few days – wishing you a fun and relaxed holiday! And nothing at all wrong with reading a kids book for book bingo they’re significant too. And you chose a great book and author to boot.

    Cool, ok, Aussie male authors it is. Oops, did you want to choose the reading challenge for next year as I chose this years one? But I’m thinking you might be happy with the male author reading challenge as you mentioned you have many Aussie male authors on your Mt Everest that you’d like to knock off. Hahaha, I was going to suggest male authors from any country but I love your idea of only Aussie male authors – huge thumbs up.

    Definitely will post pics once the revamp is completed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m looking forward to the revamp pics, they should be great to see!
      I’m glad we have our challenge for next year and the one after ironed out already, wow we are super organised. I’m hoping I won’t set myself up for failure this time with one a month, much more manageable! It will also help to knaock off those Aussie male from Everest!
      I’m finding the downward stretch hard with the final book bingo squares. The ones remaining are hard and I’ve avoided them! But it has broadened my reading choices. Another day and another book delivery. 3 today, including the new Jodi Picoult!


  6. Oh no, more books! At least there are only three, hehehe. Your remaining categories are the easy ones, I have all the hard ones left – a book more than 500 pages, a book set 100 years ago, a non-fiction book… see, hard. Lol.
    Ooh yeah, I’m looking forward to reading Aussie male authors next year, with one a month it will be super manageable! There are a couple of Aussie male authors books I’m dying to get my hands on after reading one of their books so this will be such a great opportunity to read another one of their books. I think reading challenges rock!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes oh no… three more books! Today luck is on my side as its a public holiday, so no book deliveries! Oh, those ones do sounds hard, but you are such a great reader and dedicated to completing your challenges so I’m sure you will do it! I’m so pleased you are looking forward to our challenge and super, super organised too! As you know, I’m going to be flexible and pick from my Everest or review pile, so I’ll take each month as it comes. One a month will be so much easier! Go the reading challenge, there are a few I really want to read… Tim Winton, Peter Watt, Michael Robotham, Graeme Simsion, Jock Serong and others!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s