John Clay

Prisoners of Oz

The Commonwealth of Thieves: The Story of the Founding of Australia

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Chatto & Windus 509pp £20 order from our bookshop

Bound for Botany Bay: British Convict Voyages to Australia

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The National Archives 272pp £19.99 order from our bookshop

The Fever of Discovery: The Story of Matthew Flinders

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New European Publications 250pp £15 order from our bookshop

The First Fleet’s arrival in Australia with 750 convicts, men, women and children, has been related many times, notably by Robert Hughes in The Fatal Shore and more recently by Inga Clendinnen in Dancing with Strangers. Thomas Keneally has now given us his version.

The book starts with a grand and sweeping opening sentence:

If, in the new year of 1788, the eye of God had strayed from the main games of Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa, and idled over the huge vacancy of sea to the south-east of Africa, it would have been surprised in this empty zone to see not one, but all of eleven ships being driven east on the screaming band of westerlies.

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