Today I am marking off my twenty fifth #25th checkpoint category for the POPSUGAR READING CHALLENGE 2020 with:
Highway robber. Convict. Runaway. Mother. She will do anything for freedom, but at what cost?
Transported to Britain’s furthest colony, Jenny must tackle new challenges and growing responsibilities. And when famine hits the new colony, Jenny becomes convinced that those she most cares about will not survive. She becomes the leader in a grand plot of escape, but is survival any more certain in a small open boat on an unknown ocean?
Meg Keneally’s debut solo novel is an epic historical adventure based on the extraordinary life of convict Mary Bryant.
‘Few people here will care about the distance between Sydney Cove and Botany Bay and whether you left a footprint on the shore of one or the other. What matters is that they now have a name for you. One which is exotic, one people will remember. One we will make them remember.’
Fled takes you to another world, as the reader takes a step back in history, imaging the turbulent life and times of Jenny Trelawney, a fictional representation of the notorious convict Mary Bryant. A story of restriction, chance, freedom, exploration and epic adventure, Fled is an excellent historical reconstruction of colonial times and the convict experience.
Opening in Cornwall, England in the year 1783, the reader is acquainted with Jenny Trelawney, a skilled thief. Jenny is a known highwaywoman, robbing the rich until one day she is caught in the act and sent to jail. Jenny’s is sentenced to hang, but she is given a lifeline. This saving grace is a transport ship bound for the new colony of Australia. A matter of pure survival, this challenging ordeal will test Jenny’s spirit to the core. But Jenny triumphs, leading the charge in a daring plot to escape across the dangerous seas of this foreign land, will Jenny be in charge of her own destiny again?
Fled represents the first independent novel from Australian author Meg Kennelly, who has previously teamed up with Thomas Keneally to produce the Monserrat series. Fled is a dramatic, intrepid and daring tale of a thief come female convict, who finds herself at the mercy of the sea in an attempt to secure her freedom. Meg Kennelly’s novel is a rich historical record and a high seas exploit, which I was able to completely submerge myself in.
Fled is divided into three distinct parts. These sections chronicle the lead’s life from her daring days as a highwaywoman and a well versed thief, though to her tumultuous transportation to Australia and finally her days as a free woman. Fled is a clear and colourful reconstruction of times past. Fled recounts the life and times of a protagonist who is based on one of Australia’s most well-known female convicts, Mary Bryant. I loved how Keneally managed to recreate this real life historical figure’s life in a flipped, switched and entirely different way to what I have read or viewed in previous formats. Keneally still remains true to the facts, but she puts her own unique spin on this incredibly fascinating woman and her equally compelling life. Despite Fled representing a fictional version of Jenny Trelawney’s life, an impressive five page author’s note provides the reader with plenty of historical backing.
Early life in Australia may bore some, but Keneally weaves her magic over this superb slice of Australia’s past and she injects new life into times gone by. It is important that present day Australians, especially younger generations, are made of aware of the amazing stories and people from our past. Fled bridges that important gap between history and contemporary life. Keneally presents a convincing tale that pulls in all the stops. From the dangers and threat of capture as a thief, to the depths of despair Jenny experiences when she is incarcerated, to the perilous journey on board the ship bound for Australia, through to Jenny’s life in the new colony. What I admired about Keneally’s approach was her unflinching representation of the ugly ails of life during these incredibly hard times. We witness the drudgery, desperation, hovels, exploitation, abuse, disease, malnutrition, starvation, cruelty and injustice. These were cruel and ruthless times, but you had to make of it what you can, as Jenny Trelawney shows us.
Remarkable, revealing and riveting, Fled resurrects our nation’s past and fills in the grey areas of the fragrant life of Jenny Trelawney (Mary Bryant) within a robust historical tale. I would direct those who have a keen interest in Australia’s early settlement days to Meg Keneally’s book.
**** 4 stars
Fled by Meg Keneally was published on 15th April 2019 by Allen and Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Fled, Meg Keneally, visit here.
Fled is book #80 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge