- STAFF PICKS
- GIFTS + GIFT CARDS
- SELL BOOKS
- FIND A STORE
English Passengersby Matthew Kneale
Synopses & Reviews
English Passengers presents the diverse and often conflicting perspectives of a remarkable cast of characters — including British convicts, government officials, missionaries who impose their European standards and self-serving rules on the native population, aboriginal Tasmanians caught in a desperate struggle for survival, and members of a bizarre expedition searching for the Garden of Eden. The narrative begins in 1857, as Captain Illiam Quillian Kewley of the Sincerity, thwarted in his plans to smuggle tobacco and brandy into England, is forced to put his boat up for charter. He soon finds himself bound for the Pacific, carrying not only his well-hidden contraband but also the Reverend Geoffrey Wilson, an eccentric vicar out to prove that the Biblical Garden of Eden lies in the heart of Tasmania; Dr. Thomas Potter, an arrogant scientist developing a revolutionary and sinister theory about the races of mankind; and Timothy Renshaw, a diffident young botanist. Each man offers a highly personalized record of the high seas adventures and internecine feuds that mark the voyage.
The situation that awaits them in Tasmania is brought to life in narratives exposing the dark history of British and aboriginal relationships since the 1820s. Peevay, the son of an Aborigine raped by an escaped convict, describes the subjugation of his people by English invaders who are as lethal in their good intentions as they are in their cruelty. His impressions, ironically confirmed by reports from white officials, schoolteachers, and settlers, chronicle the destruction of a thriving, self-sufficient community in the name of God, science, and "civilization."
Based on historical facts, English Passengers is an epic tale, packed with swashbuckling adventure, humor, and memorable characters. Matthew Kneale renders the prejudices and follies of the Imperialist Age with dead-on accuracy and captures — through the voice and destiny of Peevay and his tribesmen — the irreversible tragedies it wrought.
Narrated by over twenty distinct voices and full of dangerous humour, English Passengers combines wit, adventure and historical detail in a mesmerizing display of storytelling. When Captain Illiam Quillian Kewley and his band of smugglers have their contraband confiscated they are forced to put their ship, Sincerity, up for charter. The only takers are two Englishmen, the Reverend Geoffrey Wilson, who believes that the Garden of Eden was on the island of Tasmania, and Dr. Thomas Potter who is developing his sinister thesis concerning the races of man. Meanwhile an aboriginal in Tasmania, Peevay, recounts his people's struggles against the invading British. As the English passengers haplessly approach his land, their bizarre notions ever more painfully at odds with reality, we know a mighty collision is looming.
About the Author
Matthew Kneale lives in Oxford, England. English Passengers won the Whitbread Book of the Year 2000 award and was nominated for the 2000 Booker Prize. Kneale currently resides in London, Ontario.
What Our Readers Are Saying
Other books you might like