Sophie Lewis


The Bequest


Harvill Press 352pp £7.99 order from our bookshop

THE original bequest, and the seed of this turbulent family history, is a tranche of uncultivated land marked out in 1850s Australia, management of which eventually falls to the widowed Emmeline Leslie, who keeps it up even as she embarks on a life-changing journey across Europe. Another chance to make a family and a life for herself appears in the figure of Danish sea-captain Frederik Ziege, but Emmeline’s happiness will be short-lived, as he seems fated to die, like her first husband, of consumption. This is a novel peopled by voyagers and survivors. Disease of all sorts is a constant adversary and home is never more than a temporary stopping place. De Falbe makes a charming and convincing story out of this doomed love affair, neatly weaving extracts from letters and family papers into a tissue of fictional detail.

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