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The Exiles

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Member Reviews

Thank you to NetGalley for allowing me to read this book in exchange for my honest review.

Wow wow wow!!! Historical fiction usually isn’t my cup of tea, and when I read the description of this novel I thought for sure I would be bored. I should have known better, as I also loved Orphan Train by the same author. Beautifully written, with such strong female characters. It was so interesting to read about a moment in history that I knew nothing about - though this specific story was fictional, it was loosely based on true events. Highly recommend, 5 stars!

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“When you cut down a tree, you can tell how old it is by the rings inside. The more rings, the sturdier the tree. So . . . I imagine I’m a tree. And every moment that mattered to me, or person I loved, is a ring.” She put the flat of her hand on her chest. “All of them here. Keeping me strong.”

Again, CBK has educated me on a piece of history I was unaware of... Britain’s colonization of Australia by the transporting of convicts and the “relocating” of the Aboriginal people. I felt every ounce of what these women felt through Klines mesmerizing storytelling. My only complaint with the story was that I wish Mathinna’s story had had more closure. I grew attached to her and hated that her story ended so abruptly. Still a wonderful educating novel that I highly recommend. 4.5 stars.

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I have loved so many of Christina Baker Kline’s novels, but this is my instant new favorite. Can’t wait to see it fly!

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Christina Baker Kline has given us a wonderfully researched and fascinating look at the mid 1800s when British convicts were sent to a penal colony just off the coast of Australian on an island now known as Tasmania. Kline focuses primarily on three women: Evangeline, a naive governess impregnated by the stepson of her British employer who is falsely accused of theft; Hazel, a 16 year old trained as a midwife who was turned out by her drunken mother and arrested for stealing a silver spoon; and Mathinna, an orphanned Aboriginal child taken in as an experiment by the Governor's wife to see if she can be "civilized." All of these characters will face treachery and danger in their search for a new life.

Much to discuss in this fast-paced novel which is sure to become a book club favorite!

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In The Exiles, Christina Baker Kline takes on the displacement and abuse of the Aboriginal Australians, and the use of convict labor to build the British colony. The story centers on Evangeline, a young governess accused of stealing an heirloom from her employer, who finds herself unwed, pregnant, and in prison. She is chosen for transport to Van Diemen’s Land, the Australian penal colony, with a sentence of fourteen years of labor. While on the ship, she befriends Hazel, a young woman sentenced to seven years of labor for stealing a silver spoon. Where Evangeline is naive, Hazel’s experiences have left her cynical. Fortunately for Evangeline, Hazel learned folk remedies and midwifery from shadowing her mother.

While Evangeline and Hazel are being transported, orphaned Matthina is forced to leave her tribe to live with the British governor of the colony as his wife’s newest pet project. Treated as another part of the family’s collection of curiosities, Matthina remains invisible until the lady of the house wants to put her on display as a successful reformation project for her friends. Matthina’s story line was the most disappointing part of this book. I think that Kline may have better served all of her protagonists by giving Matthina her own novel and focusing exclusively on Evangeline and Hazel’s saga in this book. Matthina is certainly an exile, but using her experience as a foil for the other characters doesn’t give her the space she deserves.

Overall, The Exiles is good but not great historical fiction. Once I adjusted my frame of reference from modern expectations of imprisonment to imprisonment in the 1840s, there weren’t many surprises hiding in the plot. The writing itself occasionally felt a bit overdone. That all being said, it was a nice change of pace from some of the more traditional eras of historical fiction, and I appreciate that there was at least an attempt to address the forcible relocation of the Aboriginal Australians.

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The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline is an excellent work of historical fiction that takes place in the 1800s in Australia and England. It revolves around the life of several woman who, for the most part, were unjustly sent to a horrible prison in Australia where they experienced abuse in every form. It is also the story of an aboriginal young girl who is caught in the wilds and sent to live with an English family of distinction. She is stripped of her family and surroundings in order to be paraded around and shown to other upper class English citizens. How the females that are sent to prison and Mathinna cross paths is part of the magic of this novel. One of the prisoners that is sent to the Australian Prison has been unfairly accused of stealing a ruby ring that in fact was given to her by a secret admirer. She is also pregnant by this Secret admirer who is an English aristocracy. He is away on holiday when she is unjustly arrested and sent away. She is now alone on a ship in horrific conditions pregnant with her first child. The author’s writing makes it seem as if you, the reader, are part of the story. The reader can use all the descriptions that are given in order to paint a realistic picture of the horror that takes place in this prison and the inhumane treatment that some of “higher class” give to “lower class” citizens. This is also a story of redemption and triumph. The reader will learn a vast amount about the 1800s in Australia and England. I loved the characters and the storyline of this novel. It was almost sad when it was over! I would like to thank Christina Baker Kline, Harper Collins Publishers, and netgalley for allowing me the pleasure of reading this book in exchange for a fair and honest review .

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I was swept up in this historical novel right from the start, and happily followed the characters from London to Tasmania and back again. I had a vague understanding of how the history of Australia involved both the displacement of Indigenous people and convicts transplanted from Great Britain, but the research that went into this book taught me so much more. I was especially fascinated by the sea voyage that brought the female prisoners from London to Hobart Town. The references to "The Tempest" stack up a bit too high for me, as did invocations of the tree ring metaphor. Otherwise, strong writing propels headstrong characters to new places in a thoroughly agreeable way.

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This novel was hard to put down and such a valuable read. It told of the lives of women convicted by English courts on whims for the crime of living disadvantaged lives. The characters and their experiences are well-drawn and carry the story and experience. Our experience as women today isn't easy, but women like the characters Baker Kline drew are why we have moved so far. I love to read about strong women and this was so well written that it gave me all that I had hoped for and more. One aspect was left dangling, but perhaps the character Mathinna, the aboriginal daughter of a chieftain is a story needing to be written. Indigenous people worldwide have lost their culture and identity at the hands of colonists. This novel is memorable and deserves a place on your to-read pile,

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I selected this title as a follow up to my reading "The Immortal Irishman" by Tim Egan. The Exiles dove deeper into the world of the English underclasses being humiliated, dehumanised, and finally physically ejected from English society. I was especially intrigued by the feminist point of view. The characters were well written and interesting. The time period was captured without being too laden with detail as some historical fiction can be. But the ending seemed too pat, too rushed. And I very much feel that the storyline which followed the single native woman just disappeared.

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Well written novel that explores the horrors of early British social policy of transportation of people’s to what was to become Australia. Harsh sentences, harsh voyages, and years of harsh treatment and degradation for, sometimes, very minor offenses. One of the storylines is about an aboriginal child, my only disappointment was that this storyline is not more developed.

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If you liked Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline like I did, you'll want to read The Exhiles as well. I totally got caught up in the lives of Evangeline, Hazel, and the orphaned Aboriginal girl Mathinna. This is a beautiful but heart-breaking story. I loved learning the history of this time and it's made me want to research more of it.

Thank you Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review.

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Oh, I loved this book. From the first page to the last, I was completely mesmerized in Evangeline and Hazel's stories. I love that Christina Baker Kline explores time periods and events that are new to me. I have already shared my feelings about The Exiles on our library's Facebook page, urging people to place it on hold now.

Oh, thank you for allowing me to read such a terrific book!

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The Exiles
“an ambitious, emotionally resonant historical novel that captures the hardship, oppression, opportunity and hope of a trio of women’s lives.” I am speechless with this one. I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I’m slowly forming a bond with historical informative novels. I was blown away by this book. I just first wanted to thank @harpercollins and @williammorrowbooks for this ebook to review. This is my first read from this author @bakerkline and it did not disappoint. She has an amazing writing style and was able to keep me engrossed on each page. I hope to read more from her! I was captivated by the descriptions of the unfamiliar lands in the novel and by the awfulness of the conditions of the ship and the prisons.
This book follows the lives a few women, Evangeline, Hazel, and Mathinna. They all come from different backgrounds and somehow all their paths cross. Evangeline is a governess and works for a family educating their children, Mathinna is a native girl, Hazel is a teenager who has been neglected by her mother and was made to steal things for her midwife mother. They all end up convicts. Evangeline is innocent and was convicted of stealing a ruby ring from the family that was actually given to her by the son in the home. Mathinna is taken by a rich family to be educated and basically as an “experiment” for the woman to learn about the natives. Hazel was convicted for stealing a silver spoon. I thought the whole book was going to center around Evangeline but low and behold it mostly surrounds Hazel, who I really grew to love!

You will be witness to all the horror, tragedy, and sadness these poor women deal with as convicts and the heartbreak. There are some amazing supporting characters in this book such as Olive and Dr. Duune, as well as little Ruby. I felt for all these characters and it may have taught me not to be judgmental to another’s persons life. I found myself on the verge at tears at times and screaming at the book at other times.

I highly recommend everyone grab a copy of this when it is released on August 25! It’s a great book that shows the lengths females go for their friendships.

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This moving, well-researched, historical fiction about Australia during its early days of colonization was a book I just couldn't put down. The stories of Evangeline, Hazel, and Olive - all women convicts transported half a world away - and Mathinna, an indigenous girl whose people were forcible removed from their land, had me spell-bound.

Ms. Baker Kline knows how to weave a story while introducing readers to many historical moments they may not be very aware of. The characters are well-rounded and the settings are depicted beautifully.

My thanks to Custom House/Harper Collins and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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As a rabid ran of Orphan Train, I waited with anxious anticipation for Christina Baker Kline’s next book. I devoured The Exiles in two sittings. To me, quality historical fiction must have factual roots and be as educational as it is entertaining. Ms Kline meets theses requirements with her latest book.

This story of three young women’s horribly oppressed lives during the 1840s was an engaging and rather depressing read. After being found guilty of separate crimes, Evangeline and Hazel were transported from Britain to Australia to serve their sentences and Mathinna was a young Aboriginal girl, taken from her home to basically become a museum piece for the local governor and his wife.

The story of transported women was not new to me, but the historical treatment of Australia’s Aboriginal people was, and it was horrid. History frequently neglects the women’s perspective and I appreciate any opportunity to read about this.

The only fault I found with this book is that the thread connecting Mathinna with the others was very incidental and not developed well. In fact, Mathinna seems to become an afterthought in the book. Her story felt like a useful plot line to describe a part of history and then she was cast aside as no longer useful. Granted with all the trials and tribulations each woman faced, maybe it was better that we were spared reading any more misery.

If the current state of our part of the world is weighing heavily on you, read something else for now. Do put it on your “To Read” shelf for brighter times. If reading about the dire plight of others, puts your current situation in perspective, read it now. Either way, it is worth your time.

Thank you to NetGalley and HarperCollins for this eARC in exchange for an unbiased review.

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The Exiles gives us a very real look at the colonization of Australia, the treatment of Aboriginal Australians, the harsh treatment of "criminals" from the time period, and cruel treatment of women in the 19th century. A quick read and very engaging.

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The book was clearly very well researched, and deals with a time and place unusual for US published historical fiction., the transportation of convicts from England and Ireland to Australia.
I tend to read for plot and character, and I found the book a bit slow moving. However, I think it could be a good book for the right reader. If you like very detailed historical fiction, and have a strong stomach for the realities of 18th century prison life, this may be your book. It also has touches of romance and some unexpected plot twists. Review from a publisher supplied egalley. #LJDayofDialog

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This historical fiction book begins in 1840 in Tasmania when Mathinna, an Aboriginal child, was taken from her stepfather to live with the British Governor and his wife. About the same time, Evangeline, a young governess in London, was accused of stealing a ring that had been given to her by the adult son of her employer. Evangeline reacted to the accusation by pushing another servant down the stairs. So she was tried and sentenced to 14 years imprisonment in Tasmania. She and several other women were loaded onto a former slave ship for the 4 month trip to Australia.

Evangeline was pregnant by the son who gave her the ring but he was on holiday when she was arrested and knew nothing about the pregnancy.

Evangeline made two friend on the journey but she also made an enemy of one of the sailors, a former ex convict. Soon after she gave birth onboard to a daughter, she was killed by that sailor. So Hazel, one of Evangeline’s friends, colluded with the ship’s doctor to have the child listed as her own before the trip arrived in Tasmania.

The story goes on to explain about conditions in women’s prisons in Australia and how it was possible to work outside the prison as well as earn an early release if the prisoner’s skills were in demand by local people.

The Governor’s wife’s efforts at turning Mathinna into a cultured child were successful as the girl learned to speak English and French fluently as well as subjects taught to other British children. However Mathinna soon found herself forgetting about her heritage and dead parents.

The author has done extensive research into British convicts’ transport to Australia and what life was like for them after they arrived from halfway across the globe. It seems that after the import of convicts ended in 1868, the Australian people worked to forget this sordid part of their national heritage. They are less willing to talk about the inhuman people treatment of the Aboriginal people as well. Today 20% of the Australian population are descendants of convicts from Britain. The Australian Aboriginals comprise 3.3% of the population today even though they were the only inhabitants of the Australian continent when the British arrived.

History buffs as well as those who are interested in learning about women’s struggles, will find this a good read. Anyone else looking for a good story will enjoy it as well.

I received this ARC from the publisher and Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

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An interesting premise, to be sure. I didn't know anything about any of the historical aspects of this book--the sending of English convicts to Tasmania in the mid 1800s and the forcible removal of Australian aborigines from their homes for the sake of civilizing them. Or, in the case of this book, keeping them as a fun trinket to show off, until the novelty wears off and then kicking them to the curb. Fascinating, cruel, and shockingly true. The problem is that it's almost too much hardship and brutality, like the author wanted to be sure the reader was sufficiently horrified. While I understand that Kline is telling us what happened historically, so many bad things happening to every character constantly made it feel mechanical and contrived somehow. It cheapened and degraded the storytelling feel that a novel like this needs. It felt manufactured and without any real heart.
I also couldn't believe the characters of this novel. They never became real enough for me to care about them. It feels too much like they are made up characters just to move the story along instead of allowing them to come to life and tell the story themselves.

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Another wonderful historical fiction depiction from Kline about a relatively unknown part of history. The Tasmania of the 1840's & it's convict labor past was just hearsay to me. We'd heard Australia was where the UK sent its "convicts" but how they got there & for what crimes was an incredible story.

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