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Amazon Editorial Review
An insightful and exquisitely observant work exploring one of the world’s most distant, mythic―and misunderstood―lands.
The settlement of Tasmania by Europeans began two hundred years ago. Nicholas Shakespeare first went there, having heard of the island’s exceptional beauty, because it was famously remote. He soon decided that this was where he wanted to live. Only later did he discover a cache of letters written by an ancestor as corrupt as he was colorful: Anthony Fenn Kemp, the so-called Father of Tasmania. On his mother’s side, too, Shakespeare found he had unknown Tasmanian relations; a pair of spinsters who had never left their farm except once, in 1947, to buy shoes. Their journal recounted a saga beginning in Northern England in the 1890s with a dashing but profligate ancestor who, having played tennis with the Kaiser, ended his life in disgrace in the Tasmanian bush. In this fascinating history of two turbulent centuries in an apparently idyllic place, Shakespeare effortlessly weaves the history of the island with his multiple stories, a cast of unlikely characters from Errol Flynn to the King of Iceland, a village full of Chatwins, and, inevitably, a family of Shakespeares.
Later: Intriguing mix of history and biography, as the author pursues his own ancestors and learns a great deal about the founding, exploration, and development of Tasmania along the way. The book includes historical anecdotes, true crime (the still-unsolved 1921 murder of Chrissie Venn), and ecological concerns - the section on the vanished-but-still-rumored-to-exist Tasmanian tiger was fascinating. The focus on the indigenous people of the region brought up some chilling incidents, including some casual comments by early settlers about the dwindling native population and how that was perceived as barely worth notice. There's discussion of current aboriginal issues - not least, how to define "aborigine" after generations of loss-of-culture and of racial mixing. As one person put it, "You never know who is an Aborigine".
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*** Released for the 2018 Keep Them Moving release challenge. ***
*** Released for the 2018 Oh the Places We Can Go release challenge. ***