Title: The Wreck
Author: Meg Keneally
Published: September 1st 2020
Publisher: Echo Publishing
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Rating: 4 stars
In 1820 Sarah McCaffrey, fleeing arrest for her part in a failed rebellion, thinks she has escaped when she finds herself aboard the Serpent, bound from London to the colony of New South Wales. But when the mercurial captain’s actions drive the ship into a cliff, Sarah is the only survivor. Adopting a false identity, she becomes the right-hand woman of Molly Thistle, who has grown her late husband’s business interests into a sprawling real estate and trade empire. As time passes, Sarah begins to believe she might have found a home – until her past follows her across the seas …
‘No light was coming from the crippled ship and precious little from the sky, so Sarah did not see the next wave until it was almost upon her, a shelf of black, angry water flinging her and the barrel towards the rocks.’
A high seas adventure, a renegade with the will to survive, grit, determination and overcoming adversity leads the charge in The Wreck. The second independent novel from Australian author Meg Keneally successfully recreates times gone by, when the world was adjusting to the changes brought by industrialisation and every day proved to be a fight to survive. Rich in historical fact, detail and inspired by true events, The Wreck is remarkable slice of fiction from Meg Keneally.
Opening in 1820 in Britain, we meet Sarah McCaffrey, who is escaping arrest following her part in a dangerous demonstration. With no one to turn to, Sarah departs on the Serpent, a ship destined for lands afar. Sarah’s passage to the colony of New South Wales is a death defying adventure. When the Serpent lands into trouble and hits rocky terrain, Sarah is the only passenger on board to survive the wreck. Taking on a new identity, Sarah begins to take steps towards building a life for herself in this new colony. The search for employment leads Sarah to a woman named Molly Thistle, who brings about plenty of confusion and change in Sarah’s life. But Sarah cannot escape her past, will it continue to haunt her?
The Wreck is a rich historical fiction composition, pulled from research and fact by author Meg Keneally. A smorgasbord of historical detail, compelling characters, enthralling settings and problems to overcome defines The Wreck. This is my second experience of Meg Kennelly’s work and I enjoyed it very much.
Divided into two parts, which are both preceded by notable quotes, The Wreck crosses from northern England, to London, with a stopover in Cape Town, while finally resting in New South Wales. Each location is vividly brought to life through the expert penmanship of Meg Keneally. We get a strong feel for the sights, sounds, smells, social practices, moral expectations and more from each destination. I appreciated my visit to all of the locations featured in The Wreck. However, what I valued the most from this novel was the opportunity to glean more from the history books, particularly the impact of industrialisation on the ordinary men, women and families of this time. It was incredibly detrimental, with poverty, homelessness and the sheer will to survive ruling all else. Keneally does a good job of illuminating this aspect of her tale for the reader.
Strong characters populate The Wreck. This full bodied characterisation spreads right across the novel from the principal character of Sarah, right through to the various supporting cast. We often feel like a bystander during the events of The Wreck, standing alongside Sarah, Molly and the periphery characters of this novel. It feels as if Meg Keneally has taken her figures straight from the pages of history and injected life into these protagonists so we can connect, sympathise and revel in their escapades.
In terms of the plot, readers will be satisfied with rich content and the fast moving pace of this novel. There was never a dull moment to be had and each new chapter brought about a change, problem, or advancement in the narrative. Keneally provides a good blend of adventure, action, danger, peril, friendship, love and satisfaction to her tale. I came away enjoying my sojourn into the past, thanks to the brilliant historical world building provided by Meg Kennelly. The Wreck is highly recommended, especially for keen eyed readers of historical fiction.
The Wreck by Meg Keneally was published on 1st September 2020 by Echo Publishing. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Wreck, Meg Keneally, visit here.
*Please note that a free copy of this book was provided to me for review purposes through Beauty & Lace and Echo Publishing. To read the original review on the Beauty & Lace website please visit here.
The Wreck is book #114 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge