The Exiles: A Novel - book cover
  • Publisher : Custom House
  • Published : 06 Jul 2021
  • Pages : 400
  • ISBN-10 : 006235633X
  • ISBN-13 : 9780062356338
  • Language : English

The Exiles: A Novel



"A tour de force of original thought, imagination and promise … Kline takes full advantage of fiction - its freedom to create compelling characters who fully illuminate monumental events to make history accessible and forever etched in our minds." - Houston Chronicle

The author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Orphan Train returns with an ambitious, emotionally resonant novel about three women whose lives are bound together in nineteenth-century Australia and the hardships they weather together as they fight for redemption and freedom in a new society.

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.

In this gorgeous novel, Christina Baker Kline brilliantly recreates the beginnings of a new society in a beautiful and challenging land, telling the story of Australia from a fresh perspective, through the experiences of Evangeline, Hazel, and Mathinna. While life in Australia is punishing and often brutally unfair, it is also, for some, an opportunity: for redemption, for a new way of life, for unimagined freedom. Told in exquisite detail and incisive prose, The Exiles is a story of grace born from hardship, the unbreakable bonds of female friendships, and the unfettering of legacy.


Editorial Reviews

"A tour de force of original thought, imagination and promise … Kline takes full advantage of fiction-its freedom to create compelling characters who fully illuminate monumental events to make history accessible and forever etched in our minds." -- Houston Chronicle

"Monumental...This episode in history gets a top-notch treatment by Kline, one of our foremost historical novelists. This fascinating 19th-century take on Orange Is the New Black is subtle, intelligent, and thrillingly melodramatic." -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Both uplifting and heartbreaking, this beautifully written novel doesn't flinch from the ugliness of the penal system but celebrates the courage and resilience of both the first peoples and the settlers who came after, voluntarily or not, to create a new home for themselves and their children." -- Library Journal (starred review)

"Gripping...Filled with surprising twists, empathetic prose, and revealing historical details, Kline's resonant, powerful story will please any historical fiction fan." -- Publishers Weekly

"Kline deftly balances tragedy and pathos, making happy endings hard-earned and satisfying...Book groups will find much to discuss, such as the uses of education, both formal and informal, in this moving work." -- Booklist

"Master storyteller Christina Baker Kline is at her best in this epic yet intimate tale of nineteenth-century Australia. I loved this book." -- Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife and Love and Ruin 

"Celebrating the bonds between women, the novel explores how lives that seem destined for pain might persevere." -- Real Simple

"Intelligent and satisfyingly dramatic." -- Newsday

"The story-telling in The Exiles is triumphant…The women's struggles are filled with adversity and grief. But the novel also reveals moments of love, courage and bravery and resilience." -- Portland Press Herald

"[Kline's] research, coupled with her knack for telling a compelling story, coalesce in a riveting tale that will keep readers breathlessly hurtling toward the heart-rending conclusion." -- Bookreporter

"The author's ability to weave fact with fiction, tragedy with moments of hope, and the everyday with the universal will leave you immersed, wanting more. You'll open this novel because of history, read on because of story, and close it knowing more about your own life, right here, right now." -- New York Journal of Books

"The Exiles is that rarest of novels, a true page-turner. The action moves along; the reader feels himself to be in the hands of a professional." -- Alabama Public Radio

"Well-researched and boldly imagined." -- Sydney Mo...

Readers Top Reviews

Bridgetderick prenti
I am still reading this my second book by this author; I'm really enjoying it but like to swap between my kindle and audible as a rule. Frustratingly, I'm unable to do this in the UK but would be able to in the US. Please Amazon, can you make the 2 available at the same time please? I thought about delaying reading this and maybe should have done so. I have now finished this. It is an excellent and thoroughly researched novel about women exiled to a penal colony in Van Diemen's Land in 1840 and to a lesser degree, the impact of British colonialism on the native people of Australia. I found it both gripping and interestingly detailed about every aspect of convict life in Hobart Prison.
I've finally finished. I must admit, this was a fantastic read. I loved Evangeline, and I was quite upset by her fate to the point where I actually put the book down for a couple of days for punishment. I loved most of the characters and could easily picture them doing the things they did. Olive was actually one of my favourites. I kinda didn't like the bits with Mathinna. I did of course enjoy reading her parts in the story, but I just don't understand the why? I mean I was waiting for her to become someone and the author just seems to ditch her. We see her growing up, being forced to be something Shea not, watched like a zoo animal. Then they shove her in an orphanage and we don't see from her again until she is older and then it's only once where she's a bit of a drunk and the world hasn't done anything to stop shitting on her. Just felt like getting attached to her story was pointless if it wasn't going to go anywhere. I liked Hazel, I enjoyed watching her grow as a character and I was made up with the fate of Buck. I will probably read this again. Very glad it was last months book to read because I wouldn't have read it otherwise
Jo Fountain
I enjoyed this but it was somehow lacking in depth of characterisation! I couldn't fully connect with the main characters. They were a little empty and so didn't quite give the subject matter the oomph it deserves!! I was drawn to this by the title because back in the early 80's as a young teenager my mum and myself read a book called The Exiles by Vivian Stuart, the first of The Australians series of, I believe, 6 books! About a young girl who ends up in Newgate prison and is shipped off on the convict ships! I still have that battered, dog eared book that my long gone mum bought 2nd hand from a market stall back in about 1981. It still is probably my most favourite, or at least in the top 3 of my best books ever!!! My Mum read the series but I was new to the adult section in the library and wanted to read EVERYTHING hahaha! How I wish we had bought them all back then, as they now cost a fortune as 2nd hand copies! That gave the subject matter the justice it deserves and I still remember it today. Maybe that is why I can't quite give this book a better review! However I have read some of the blurbs on her other titles and have saved them to my, to read list, hence the 4* because it may not have lived up to what I wanted it to, but I did enjoy her writing!
Richard Seltzer
Intricately woven stories of convicts transported from England to Australia in the 1840s and an aborigine orphaned there at the same time. Surprises. Pathos. You get caught up in the challenges facing those characters and women in general in that time and those places. Two repeated metaphors tie it all together. One was associated with the orphan aborigine girl was based on necklace her mother gave her "Just imagine you're the thread. And the people you love are these shells. And then they'll always be with you." (p. 321) The other was associated with an orphan English girl. It was told her by her father, and she retold, and people she told it to retold it. "'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.'" pp. 161-162 And again, at the very end, years later, the daughter of the convict, having gone to England to be trained as a doctor and on the brink of returning to Australia. "She thought of all the women she knew who'd been given nothing, who'd been scorned and misjudged, who'd had to fight for every scrap. They were her many mothers: Evangeline, who gave her life, and Hazel, who save it. Olive and Maeve, who fed and nurtured her. Even Dr. Garrett. Each of them lived inside her, and always would. They were the rings of the tree that Hazel was always going on about, the shells on her thread ... And she was on her way." pp. 360-361 And the work most frequently alluded too is Shakespeare's Tempest. Hence the title of this review.
Cindy A. McCabe
Christina Baker Kline puts her whole heart into her books. I loved Orphan Train and A Piece of the World, learning so much from her research and incredible writing; loving her characters. In The Exiles, Kline has written an incredible book of an era I knew nothing about. You will care and love her characters: Evangeline, Mathinna and Ruby. Reading this great book of talent, I felt so many emotions and was sad to see it end. It has become a part of me. Do read it.