Member Reviews

I'm sure I am not the only woman of in the 21st century that couldn't look away from The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline. In this time and age with all the Woman movements, social media I am woman hear me roar this book didn't have time to get cold on my end table. The story takes place in the year 1840 starting in England, then it takes you on a journey not only across the ocean, but across your heart. I was fascinated by these woman so brave, strong at heart and character eh sometimes a little salty. The Exiles is a must read for fans of Ellen Marie Wiseman. Both two extraordinary writers.

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This book was so much more than I bargained for. I am a long-time fan of Christina Baker Kline and have recommended her works to readers of literary and historical fiction. This book blends both genres beautifully with thoughtful descriptions and attention to detail. The writing was beautiful. This one is sure to be a reader favorite.

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Good book... typical Christina Baker Kline... falls right in line with her other titles. A great book of historical fiction that takes place mostly early 1840s and focuses on the transport of female “convicts” from England to Tasmania.

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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC.

This is the third novel I've read by Christina Baker Kline, and I liked this one the best. The pace is strong, and I found the plot quite interesting. I knew very little about transportation and convict ships, and I thoroughly enjoyed Baker Kline's evidently abundant research into the time period.

As is obvious from my rating, I enjoyed EXILES. For just a couple reasons, though, I had to hold back a star. First, the characters felt a little cookie-cutter to me. Evangeline, the naive vicar's daughter. Olive, the street-wise, smart-mouthed prostitute. Hazel, the quietly brilliant, steel-spined heroine. It's not to say I didn't like them - I did. I just got the feeling that Baker Kline ran down a checklist of early Victorian stereotypes and checked off boxes as she went. Mathinna was the only character whose arc surprised me. I guess I expected Baker Kline to give her a happy ending; it felt wholly genuine that she didn't.

My other issue with the novel is one that I've had with Baker Kline's other books: too much tell, not enough show. And the "tell" is not subtle. I know that this style appeals to some, but it's just not my thing. I enjoy a bit of mystery, a bit of supposition on the part of the reader, and even the opportunity to formulate my own opinions about historical events. EXILES does too much force-feeding to rate as a 5-star novel in my opinion.

I think Baker Kline's fans will be thrilled with EXILES. It certainly surpasses her other novels, in my opinion. I would definitely recommend it to fans of historical fiction, early Victorian British history, the colonization of Australia, and aboriginal life in Tasmania.

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The Exiles follows a variety of women and their experiences living in 19th century Australia. First is Evangeline, a vicar's daughter and governess, who is accused of stealing an heirloom of the family she works for. She didn't do it, but she did get pregnant with the half-son of her charges. And that's the greater "crime" she committed, which found her sentenced to transport from Newgate Prison in London across the oceans and to Australia. Second is Mathinna an Aboriginal 9 year-old who is "collected" by the Governor of Australia and semi-fostered in his household. But, when she proves to be too "out of control," she is banished to the orphanage and left wholly alone. Thirdly is Hazel, a fellow convict Evangeline meets en route to Australia. Unlike Evangeline, Hazel is very poor, had no support from her single mother, and is a midwife. But Hazel and Evangeline grow very close, and Hazel takes on a great responsibility when Evangeline cannot. Lastly is Ruby, the generation after Evangeline and Hazel who is raised by former convicts. How can she, a woman wanting to study medicine, find her way in the patriarchal world?

It is obvious Kline has spent a great deal of time and effort researching prison life in Newgate and Australia, what transport consisted of, and what the lives of some of the first British women in Australia was like. However, there wasn't much of a plot structure. It seemed to be all exposition: how Evangeline ended up in Newgate, what it was like in Newgate, what the transport ship and daily life there was like, what it was like in the Australian prison camp, and so on. There are a few small rises in action (Buck, I'm looking at you), but it was mostly all one level-- there was no rising or falling action in the plot diagram of this story. That said, I did enjoy getting this inside look into some aspects of 19th century life that I was not very familiar with-- especially low SES women.

If you tend to like history-based nonfiction, especially that focuses on the "little people's" stories instead of the (in)famous people's stories, you'll probably enjoy this one. If you're looking for the same enthralling story as The Orphan Train, go somewhere else.

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The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline was a beautifully written novel about three women: Evangeline, Hazel, and Mathinne. Each has a sad story that brought them to Australia in the nineteenth century.

Evangeline gets pregnant by the son of her boss and is accused of stealing. Sent to prison, then banished to the middle of nowhere in Australia, she is forced to deal with horrible conditions while pregnant and alone. On the ship from London to Australia, she meets Hazel, a young woman who possesses knowledge of midwife skills and herbs for healing. Mathinne is a native Aboriginal girl whose parents have died. Taken from her life by the whim of a visiting governor and his wife, she is thrust into an upper-class life but treated not much better than a servant.

Here is the official synopsis:

Seduced by her employer’s son, Evangeline, a naïve young governess in early nineteenth-century London, is discharged when her pregnancy is discovered and sent to the notorious Newgate Prison. After months in the fetid, overcrowded jail, she learns she is sentenced to “the land beyond the seas,” Van Diemen’s Land, a penal colony in Australia. Though uncertain of what awaits, Evangeline knows one thing: the child she carries will be born on the months-long voyage to this distant land.

During the journey on a repurposed slave ship, the Medea, Evangeline strikes up a friendship with Hazel, a girl little older than her former pupils who was sentenced to seven years transport for stealing a silver spoon. Canny where Evangeline is guileless, Hazel — a skilled midwife and herbalist – is soon offering home remedies to both prisoners and sailors in return for a variety of favors.

Though Australia has been home to Aboriginal people for more than 50,000 years, the British government in the 1840s considers its fledgling colony uninhabited and unsettled, and views the natives as an unpleasant nuisance. By the time the Medea arrives, many of them have been forcibly relocated, their land seized by white colonists. One of these relocated people is Mathinna, the orphaned daughter of the Chief of the Lowreenne tribe, who has been adopted by the new governor of Van Diemen’s Land.

Christina is an incredible author and I’ve read almost everything she has written. I highly recommend The Exiles if you enjoy historical fiction or just want to read an exquisite story!

Coming out on August 25, pre-order here.

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The Exiles is a difficult book to swallow, tackling the legacy of colonialism and violence in penal Australia. The three women at the center of the story -- Evangeline, Mathinna, and Hazel -- suffer from abuse, poverty, misogyny, and, for Mathinna -- a Palawa (Aboriginal Tasmanian) girl -- racism.

I was captivated by this novel, desperate to know the fates of Kline's central characters. Moving from Newgate in 1840s London to a convict ship bound for Van Dieman's Land to the women's prison in Tasmania to the governor's mansion nearby, the story provides a harrowing glimpse into the inhumane conditions of the British colonial diaspora. Ultimately, it is a story about resilient, flawed women and their impacts on each other.

[4.5/5: A thoroughly researched, heartbreaking novel. Character-driven and setting-based; very evocatively described. It is historical fiction, but resonates powerfully with contemporary society.]

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC of this novel!

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✨WOW!✨ All of the stars for this beautiful book! This was a unique story on a piece of history that I knew nothing about! I learned a lot and had my heart shredded (in the best way possible). ♥️ This is a masterpiece of a book, and one that the author obviously put an extensive amount of research into. From London, to a derelict prison, to a slave ship, and ending in Australia- this is a sweeping tale and one that left me breathless with anticipation. The Exiles is an exploration of human tenacity and resilience, the abuse of power, and the strength of women friendships. This book is a stunning work of fiction and I absolutely loved it! My thanks to @harpercollins @customhousebooks for this advance reader in exchange for my honest review.

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Christina Baker Kline's characters get knocked down quite often . . . but they get up again! This speaks volumes for their strength and fortitude. Four courageous women, four horrendous circumstances, and four feats of accomplishment are intertwined in a heartbreaking, yet inspirational story that takes place during the 1840s and the transport of female “convicts” from England to Tasmania.

They were "The Exiles" and it was not a wonderful time to be unprotected women. But they never gave up, and they never stopped fighting. They shared the hardships and heartbreaks of life, and they even shared a common foe, which was an ex-convict turned sailor with an ax to grind. Even though he had all of the power, they united against him. He never stood a chance. They stuck by each other, and stood up for each other until the bitter end.

Kline's characterization skills are unforgettable. She will leave you wanting to know more. Put this together with her ability to connect events and occurrences within a common thread, and you have a story that will break your heart and warm it all at the same time. I can't wait to read more by this author!

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For almost one hundred years, Great Britain used transportation as the solution to two problems. One problem was the growing prison population. Britain’s laws were so strict that minor thefts got severe sentences. The other problem was getting enough white people to settle Australia. After boatloads of male prisoners were sent Down Under, female prisoners were also sent. The idea was that, once everyone’s sentences were over, “nature” would take its course and Australia would soon be populated with new British subjects. The Exiles, by Christina Baker Kline, tells the story of two women who wound up on the wrong side of the law—and the story of what happened to a young girl whose entire way of life was displaced and turned into a curiosity.

Mathinna was one of the most interesting characters in The Exiles. Unfortunately, she was also one of my biggest disappointments in the novel because she was so underused in the last half of the book that she essentially vanished. Mathinna is living on Flinders Island, when we meet her. Its 1840 and most of her people—the Palawa, aboriginal Tasmanians—have been moved away from their homeland on Tasmania to Flinders Island. There, they are treated as primitives, uneducated and unsaved, and curiosities. Mathinna is snatched from the remnants of her family and the Palawa when the new governor’s wife takes a fancy to her. The governor’s wife wants to “civilize” Mathinna, and so whisks her away to her mansion where Mathinna is constantly insulted and watched for any sign of “savageness.”

Meanwhile, Evangeline is eking out a living as a governess in London when she is accused of theft. It’s a trumped up charge because the young master of the house had a fling with Evangeline. The poor woman ends up in Newgate, pregnant, and looking at a fourteen year sentence in Australia. Like many innocents, Evangeline hopes that her lover will rescue her…but that hope quickly vanished. She manages to survive as long as she does because other inmates either take a shine to her or take pity on her. Things only get worse for Evangeline on the ship to Australia.

Mathinna makes fewer and fewer appearances in The Exiles. I was interested in Evangeline’s story and, later, the stories of Hazel and Ruby; the experiences of transported women are gripping enough to sustain a narrative. But I was much more interested in the treatment of Mathinna. As an American, I grew up on stories about the Indian Wars. I lived near a reservation for a good chunk of my childhood. My still-scanty knowledge of the enduring history of Native Americans has made me curious about how other indigenous people have survived in other places around the world. The Exiles is not the best book to satisfy my curiosity in that regard, but it is a good introduction to the history of Australian transportation, from the women’s side.

Recommended, with reservations.

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Christina Baker Kline does it again! She has succeeded in writing another well researched, touching, historical fiction novel. The Exiles takes place in Australia in 1840. This time around Kline is writing about three women. Evangeline and Hazel who are English convicts sent on a slave ship to a penal colony in Australia. The third is Matthina an aboriginal girl who was orphaned and sent to be raised by the British governors wife. These three women are all exiled from their homes, but they remain strong, determined, loyal, compassionate, fierce and determined to survive.

It was refreshing to read about a part of history I knew absolutely nothing about. It was fascinating to do my own research about British convicts being transported half way around the world to Australia and to learn more about the conditions in the famous Newgate Prison. In Australia today close to 5 million people are descendants of transported British convicts. Until recently Australians have wanted to keep that part of their history a secret.

If you loved the Orphan Train you are sure to love this book too. Christina Baker Kline has officially become one of my favorite authors. Thank you NetGalley And HarperCollins Publishers for an Arc of this book in exchange for an honest review. Don’t walk, run to the store to buy this one coming out August 25, 2020.

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I enjoyed this book, just as I liked the author's book Orphan Train. I like when authors let you know what will happen to characters in the future and when things come around full-circle. Learning about this time in history and these events was very interesting. Such harsh conditions. Warning...the story is sad. ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.

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A book that captured my attention and kept me riveted right to the end, a read that you need to expect the unexpected.
Living in England in the 1800's was not an easy time, seems like the littlest offense and you ended up in the Jail, or the famous Newgate prison.
The author has us traveling with these poor woman, on a prison ship to the then country of Australia, which was know as the "Prison Colony", but the mistreatment and life of these poor people was atrocious.
While in Australia, we are with some of the same women we met on the ship, but we also meet a young aboriginal orphan, and see what happens to her as she is more or less being made into a pet.
This is a story that will linger with you, and I found myself rooting for revenge, but there is so much going on here.
A book you really don't want to miss, it is that good!
I received this book through Net Galley and the Publisher William Morrow and was not required to give a positive review.

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Absolutely incredible - I couldn’t put it down once I started. The weaving of indeginous stories with the women in prison, the conditions they faced was truly compelling.

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Life was hard in the 19th century and there seems to have been little compassion in spite of the God-fearing Western citizenry. I couldn’t help comparing the religious acts of the Franklins with those of the Quaker Mrs. Elizabeth Fry. One was all talk, no action, and the other was all action and little talk.

The plight of impoverished women was heart breaking and at times overwhelming. This is a work of fiction but the eradication of native peoples by violence, sickness and alcohol is an absolute truth. The loneliness that Mathinna endured due to racism was so hard to read, even more so than Evangeline and Hazel’s circumstances. And it’s so timely, given the Black Lives Matter movement.

I was unaware of the transport of convicts to Tasmania until I read this book and how quickly one could go from being a gainfully employed domestic to a convicted criminal. One misstep, one stolen silver spoon. The ending is delicious when Ruby returns to England and meets her father in his reduced circumstances. Three thumbs up.

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Women do not have an easy life in Kline's new novel. Unless they're rich. But this novel has very little sympathy for the rich. Instead, the focus is on the marginalized. Evangeline is a naïve governess, who finds herself pregnant and accused of stealing a ring (she didn't). After a stint in Newgate, Evangeline is sentenced to 14 years labor in Australia. On the months-long voyage, she meets Hazel, a fellow prisoner, and the two become unlikely allies. Kline does not soften her descriptions of the conditions they faced. One can almost smell it.

Methinna, an Aboriginal girl who is adopted by the governor's wife to be essentially a talking pet, rounds out our group. At 11, she's old enough to be somewhat independent, which is good, since no-one exactly takes care of her. But she learns French and learns how to dance, and is generally considered a marvel of civilization, until, suddenly she isn't. Unfortunately, she learns the hard way that you can't go home again, although in her case, it's as much to do with the depredations of the British on the Aboriginal way of life than with anything she does.

Evangeline and Hazel are well-realized characters, although in some ways they are mere stand-ins for the idea that women had no power in that era. But they fill that role more than adequately, not being shy with their desire to be treated with common decency. Methinna's inclusion in the novel is more curious, as her story barely intersects the other, and her impact on their lives isn't as dramatic as it could be, or vice versa. It almost seems as though Kline felt she couldn't write a story taking place in Australia at the time without including an Aboriginal voice, a sentiment which I applaud, but I don't think she does that voice much justice here. For the a fully-told plight of women prisoners sent to the colony, I recommend this book. For the same of the Aboriginals, one might want to look elsewhere.

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Nice historical novel about the settlement of Australia. The book follows three female characters. Two of the women are “convicts” being transported to Australia., the third is a young aboriginal girl who is taken into the home of the local governor. The book presents an interesting view of how society pushes women to fit into its norms. The story of the sea passage was enjoyable and heartening. The story of the young girl was more heartbreaking.

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4+ stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review.

Interesting tale of several women in 1840s England and Australia. Evangeline and Hazel are two young women who were sentenced to transport to Australia to serve out their unfair prison sentences. There is also a third story of an Aboriginal child, Mathinna, who is basically stolen by the Governor’s wife as a plaything.

I found the novel very well written and interesting. I would get so frustrated with how the world was (hmmm, still is) unfair to poor woman. These women were treated so poorly by almost everyone around them. I would have liked to have read more on Mathinna at the end.

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After becoming pregnant by her employer's son, Evangeline is accused of stealing a ring that he gave her. Sentenced to transport and hard labor in Australia, Evangeline is put on a repurposed slave ship. On the ship, Evangeline befriends Hazel, a teenager who is skilled in midwifery and herbs.

This was a well written and engaging book. It was well paced and delivered many surprises. The characters were well developed and very interesting. I enjoyed reading about this topic, one I've rarely seen in books. I look forward to reading more from this author.

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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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