Welcome to a weekly post, Throwback Thursday. This weekly book review post is a way to share some old favourites, books that were published over a year ago and most importantly those books that have been languishing on the to be read pile for far too long!
Can one man’s revenge become his redemption?
Young Luke Tyler has everything going for him: brains, looks and a larrikin charm that turns heads. The future appears bright, until he defends his sister from the powerful Sir Henry Abbot. His reward is fifteen years hard labour on a prison farm in Tasmania’s remote highlands.
Luke escapes, finding sanctuary with a local philanthropist, Daniel Campbell, and starting a forbidden relationship with Daniel’s daughter, Belle. But when Luke is betrayed, he must flee or be hanged.
With all seeming lost, Luke sails to South Africa to start afresh. Yet he remains haunted by the past, and by Belle, the woman he can’t forget. When he returns to seek revenge and reclaim his life, his actions will have shattering consequences – for the innocent as well as the guilty.
Set against a backdrop of wild Tasmania, Australian gold and African diamonds, Fortune’s Son is an epic story of betrayal, love and one man’s struggle to triumph over adversity and find his way home.
What a majestic cover and novel! You can feel the serenity, sparseness and pure wilderness of Tasmania as soon as you slip between the pages of this magnificent Australian saga. Environmentalist and talented storyteller Jennifer Scoullar makes her historical fiction debut with Fortune’s Son, the first book in the Tasmanian Tales series. Although I read this book the wrong way around (I read its sequel first), I enjoyed every single word of Fortune’s Son.
Fortune’s Son begins with the contemplative and divisive question; can one man’s revenge become his redemption? This is an interesting angle to introduce the proceedings of a first novel in new series. To understand and to better answer this question, we must look at Luke Tyler, the appealing lead character of Fortune’s Son. When the story begins, Luke is a youth, who makes a brave but ultimately wrong choice to defend his sister. Luke ends us being incarnated for fifteen years. To pay for his crime, Luke is sent to work at a remote prison farm in the Tasmanian highlands. Eventually Luke manages to escape the prison farm, with a trusty companion, a newfoundland dog named Bear. When Luke seeks refuge in a remote cabin in Tasmania he is protected by Daniel Campbell, a leading conservationist. The more time Luke spends with Daniel Campbell, the more he is drawn to Belle, Daniel’s only daughter. It is a forbidden relationship, but it is one that changes both Luke and Belle’s lives forever. When Luke is issued with an ultimatum, flee or face the hangman’s noose, he disappears. Years later, after making a name for himself in South Africa, Luke makes a triumphant return to Tasmania to reclaim what he lost.
Sometimes a book enters your life and it leaves a great stain on your mind. I feel this best describes my feelings for Fortune’s Son, by Jennifer Scoullar. I have been acquainted with the work of Scoullar for a few years now. I recall picking up Currawong Creek, one of her earlier books when I was going through a rural fiction binge some years ago. She was able to fulfil my desire for good quality rural fiction. I love that she sets herself away from the crowd with her emphasis on the environmental side of Australia. This is quite the case with Fortune’s Son. Although this is a historical fiction title, there is still a strong environmental feeling throughout the novel.
Fortune’s Son is Jennifer Scoullar’s first dabble in the world of historical fiction. It is really hard to believe Scoullar hasn’t written for this genre before, as her writing is expressive, refined, well informed and very reflective of the historical era in which her novel is placed. We are blessed to have such skilled authors in Australia, ready and willing to take us to places and time periods that have previously been lost. I love historical fiction, especially Australian based historical fiction and Fortune’s Son goes that one step further, as Scoullar zones in on one of my most treasured locales in Australia, Tasmania. Through Scoullar’s beautifully versed prose, we are transported to 1880s Tasmania and the years after with complete ease. It was such a joy to read every single sentence of this novel, especially the Tasmania parts, which lucky for me formed a vast majority of the book.
Books are here to entertain us, but if they provide you with a little education, it is even better. Fortune’s Son proved to be an excellent tutor. I gleaned so much from this book, ranging from the penal system in Australia in the 1800s, Australian laws, conservation, land rights, mining, land clearing impacts, women’s rights, class divides and farming practices. However, perhaps the most vital slice of information I was able to take away from reading Fortune’ Son was the sad plight of the now extinct Tasmanian tiger. If only we didn’t hunt, poach and blame these creatures solely for cattle mauling they may have been saved. Scoullar also draws our attention to other unique Tasmania creatures under the threat of extinction, such as Tasmanian devils and quolls. Luke Tyler and Daniel Campbell are both pioneering figures in the world of early Australian conservation efforts, which was so pleasing to read.
As well as a rich and layered family saga, full of complications and binds for the characters of the novel to navigate, Scoullar also delivers a fine historical romance. I loved how the romance blossomed between Luke and Belle. Luke’s continued love for Belle and the flame that refused to go out was stunning. The forbidden aspect of this love story propels the narrative in a forward motion. It also provides Scoullar with the opportunity to explore class differences at this point in time. I found myself very captivated by Luke and Belle’s romance, as well as their legacy.
Not only is Fortune’s Son a tribute to the wild untamed glory of Tasmania, it also takes the reader to South Africa. Here, Scoullar’s flair for words and her descriptive prose allows the audience to fully appreciate what Africa has to offer. We also learn a great deal about the challenges faced by this country too, in the form of big game hunting of Africa’s special wildlife and its mining pressures. This was an added bonus that I didn’t expect when I picked up Fortune’s Son to read.
Scoullar is deliberate in counteracting her heroes with her villains in this story. There are some really meaty villains contained in this story. Redemption comes in the form of Luke, the lead, along with Belle and the non human characters, such as Bear, Luke’s loyal companion. Some of the choices the characters make in Fortune’s Son will get under your skin, but to me, an author should take this as a good sign!
A stunning transcription of Australia’s past, Fortune’s Son is a sensational series starter, to a collection of novels I have come to adore. With the recent good news shared by the author that The Memory Tree, the last book in the Tasmanian Tales trilogy will be released next year, I am one happy camper! I highly recommend Fortune’s Son to all historical fiction lovers and fans of Australian rural fiction.
***** 5 stars
Fortune’s Son by Jennifer Scoullar was published on 29th May 2017 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
Learn more about the author of Fortune’s Son, Jennifer Scoullar here.
Fortune’s Son is book #144 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge