The Floating Brothel by Siân Rees - review by John Clay

John Clay

Women At Sea

The Floating Brothel


Hodder Headline 248pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

After the exuberance of the Sydney Olympics, it is easy to forget Australia’s murky convict past. This book takes us back to that time in the 1790s when transportation to Australia first began, its principal aim having been to relieve overcrowded gaols and deter crime in England. The floating brothel was the Lady Julian, part of the second fleet sent out to bring much–needed food and supplies to the new settlement. She left London in June 1789, with 237 female convicts on board. It took eleven eventful months for her to reach Sydney, thirteen thousand miles away.

The first part of this very informative book describes the background of these convicts. Not all were victims of injustice. Many were repeat offenders: prostitutes who had robbed their sleeping clients, servants who had stolen their mistresses’ silver, or muslin–snatchers who had stuffed rolls of muslin under their petticoats while

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