#AtoZChallenge V: Voyage to Australia – Private Journal of James Bell

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

Summary

Private Journal of James Bell
Edited by Richard Walsh with an introduction and epilogue by Anthony Laube

This book is the personal diary of James Bell, who took the long voyage to Australia in 1838, leaving his family and friends, and not knowing what to expect of the new country, so far away.

The story of how this diary came to be published is incredible.  Firstly, it’s very survival  is worthy of mentioning.  The original diary turned up at a country bookstall in England, 150 years after it was written, and The State Library of South Australia managed to raise the necessary funds to buy the diary at auction.

James Bell , aged 21, set out in the sailing vessel, the Planter, from St. Katharine Docks in London to travel to Adelaide, Australia, an infant colony, half a world away and not yet two years old. He left behind family, good friends and the mysterious C.P, a young woman with whom he hoped one day to be reunited.

The voyage that James Bell undertook was meant to take about 130 days, but due to the incompetence of the Captain, and many misadventures along the way, it actually took six months to arrive in Australia. The many unforeseen events and dramas that occurred along the way, made the voyage extremely difficult. There was a mutiny, drunken fights, orgies and a storm resulting in the loss of the ship’s sails.

It is obvious in reading his words, that James Bell has a great sense of adventure. He also has a love of poetry, great religious faith, and is very nostalgic about his memories of those he left behind.

More than a century after the diaries were written, the reader can’t help but be reminded of the dangers of such an adventurous voyage. I am also reminded how lucky we are, that adventurous people like him, and like my ancestors, were brave enough to take the long voyage to a land that at the time was little known.

An excerpt from the preface written by James Bell:

“The following is not merely an account of the Ships course, and a mere mention of the places passed during my voyage to South Australia, but a noting down from day to day of the thoughts and ideas that occupied my mind at the moment – and my reason for this was that I might bring my observation of the events, as well as manners, to be more directly upon my own conduct, and in this way correct any thing that might be amiss, as well as tending to the strengthening of those principles, with which my mind has been imbued, as I am convinced that this is the best way of fixing occurrences upon the memory” – James Bell

 My Thoughts

The story of how the diary came to be published had me intrigued. I couldn’t wait to get into this book and when I did, I found it hard to put it down.

I really enjoyed James Bell’s descriptions of the other passengers and his very detailed account of their comings and goings. He doesn’t hold back at all, in expressing his opinion of most of them.

My interest and passion for genealogy and Australian history also contributed to my enjoyment of this book. I’m not really sure if readers without those interests, would rate this book as highly as I do. Perhaps I am slightly biased towards the subject matter.

For those who decide to read A Voyage to Australia, I hope you enjoy this beautifully presented book, as much as I did.

The Epilogue

The epilogue traces the lives of many of the passengers after they reached Australia, with information of how they coped with life in the new, unknown country. There is also a passenger list with names of all passengers and crew.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Published by Allen & Unwin in 2011.
Hardcover with dustjacket – 202 pages including bibliography

Have you read this book. If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I promise to always reply to comments made in the section below.

To keep up with the latest book reviews, please pop your email into the box in the side bar. This will ensure you are notified of all updates.

Find me here: Facebook and Instagram and Goodreads

img_7712-1

This blog has been nominated for the Bloggers Bash Awards in the category of Best Book Review Blog. If you would like to vote for me click on the link below and scroll down to the Best Book Review Blog Section. You will find Best Bookish Blog there. I do appreciate you taking the time to vote.

https://annualbloggersbash.com/2019/04/10/the-annual-bloggers-bash-awards-2019-vote-is-live/

#AtoZChallenge S is for Stasiland by Anna Funder

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

Summary

Stories from behind the Berlin Wall.

Shortly after the Berlin Wall fell, in 1989, East Germany ceased to exist, after the reunification of East and West Germany.  In Stasiland, Anna Funder tells the amazing tales of what life had been like in the former East Germany.

Anna Funder was working in Berlin, when she became interested in the fall of the Berlin Wall. She placed an advertisement in the newspapers, inviting people to be interviewed by her, about their experiences at the time. As a result, Funder met with both ordinary people, trying to survive, and members and ex members of the Stasi. The stories they told were truly intriguing and shocking.

“In this land
I have made myself sick with silence
In this land
I have wandered, lost
In this land
I hunkered down to see
What will become of me.
In this land
I held myself tight
So as not to scream.
-But I did scream, so loud
That this land howled back at me
As hideously
As it builds its houses.
In this land
I have been sown
Only my head sticks
Defiant, out of the earth
But one day it too will be mown
Making me, finally
Of this land.
-Charlie’s poem”
Anna Funder, Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall

 

‘’Peter Fechter, the eighteen-year- old shot trying to escape in 1962 and left to die on the death strip, because each side thought the other would retaliate if they went to help him. Someone has thrown him a roll of bandages, but he lies immobile and bleeding.’’ – Stasiland

My Thoughts

I am a fan of Anna Funder’s novels, but her writing and the subject matter of Stasiland, touched me to the core. The stories in Stasiland read more like fiction, but because they are true, the harrowing nature of the stories some had to tell, are both horrifying and unimaginable.  This is a book I will definitely read again, but it had such a huge affect on me that I need a little space between the first and second reading.

Stasiland is extremely powerful writing at it’s best. I found it was like a punch to the stomach to read about the suffering that should never have happened. Anna Funder does not mince words at all. She tells it as it was, as  she takes us to the falling of the wall, which is earth shattering and very real to the reader.  The consequences of the fall and subsequent stories we read about the people who were living behind the wall at the time, are unforgettable.

Even though the subject matter is very heavy and dark and extremely sad, there are also many funny and bizarre moments to balance out the darkness. and unhappiness.

Recommendation

‘Anna Funder explores, in the most humane and sensitive way, lives blighted by the East German Stasi. She allows ex-Stasi operatives an equal chance to reflect on their achievements, and finds—to her dismay and ours—that they have learned nothing.’
— J. M. Coetzee, author

‘Stasiland is a brilliant account of the passionate search for a brutal history in the process of being lost, forgotten and destroyed. It is a masterpiece of investigative analysis, written almost like a novel, with a perfect mix of compassion and distance.’
– Elena Lappin, Sunday Times

My Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

About The Author

Anna Funder

 

Anna Funder was born in Melbourne in 1966. She has worked as an international lawyer for the Australian Government, focusing on human rights and constitutional law. She grew up in Melbourne and Paris and now lives in Sydney with her family.

Published in 2004 by Granta Books.
Paperback, 288 pages


Have you read this book. If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I promise to always reply to comments made in the section below.

To keep up with the latest book reviews, please pop your email into the box in the side bar. This will ensure you are notified of all updates.
Find me here: Facebook and Instagram and Goodreads
#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary badge

This blog has been nominated for the Bloggers Bash Awards in the category of Best Book Review Blog. If you would like to vote for me click on the link below and scroll down to the Best Book Review Blog Section. You will find Best Bookish Blog there. I do appreciate you taking the time to vote.

https://annualbloggersbash.com/2019/04/10/the-annual-bloggers-bash-awards-2019-vote-is-live/

Images: Goodreads

1788: The Brutal Truth of the First Fleet

Title:  1788 The Brutal Truth of the First Fleet
            The biggest single overseas migration the world had ever seen

Author: David Hill
Publisher:  William Heinemann
Date of Publication: 2008
Genre: Australian History
Number of Pages:  400, indexed with a chronology, bibliography and research notes. Photos and charts ;included.

Summary

Hill starts at the beginning, where he describes in great detail, the circumstances and events of life in Georgian England, that led to the decision to send convicts to start a new Colony in an unknown far away country. He conveys the excitement that must have been felt by the officials behind the biggest mass migration scheme ever seen. He sets the scene of life in England at the time that transportation began and the reasons for the decision to transport the convicts to a new land.

The agonizingly long preparations for the journey are covered in great detail, along with the effect this had on the convicts, and the fear they felt at setting out on an unknown journey, to the other side of the world, knowing that it was unlikely they would see their loved ones again. While waiting for the journey to begin, prisoners were being housed in ships at sea, close to land, due to the overcrowded conditions in the gaols. The conditions and hardships on these temporary prisons were also overcrowded and unhygienic.  As a result, many of the prisoners were in a poor state of health when the journey began.

We follow the First Fleet on the long arduous voyage of eight months, over very rough seas to the new unknown land. The 11 ships that transported the convicts, marines and officers in what were atrocious, overcrowded and mostly unbearable conditions. We get to know many of the convicts with outlines of the crimes they committed and their sentences. There were over 1500 people transported with food that was expected to last two years, along with equipment needed to build the new Colony.

We learn more about why they took the particular route they did and their experiences at their various stop-overs enroute. The political arguments of the day are also outlined so that we can understand the reasons for such long protracted preparations and the many delays that occurred.

The book also contains information about how Australia was settled after the arrival of the First Fleet, and the hardships, problems and deprivations that were encountered, which seemed to be insurmountable and caused much despair and conflict. Conditions of famine, after failure of crops to survive caused rations to be continually cut, until the new arrivals were surviving on very meager starvation rations. Hill outlines the struggle for survival in the early days and years, which led to many deaths and finally to the settlement of Norfolk Island.

The Aboriginal people are not forgotten in this book. To read of the interactions of the marines and officers with the Aboriginal community in the context of today’s standards and understandings, is quite startling. However we must remember this was a different time with a different set of values.

We meet Governor Phillip and the officers who were consigned to set up and govern the new country. The insight into Governor Phillip is far more personal than any I have read previously. After reading this book, I feel I understand him more, and why he chose certain actions and outcomes that are sometimes criticised.

The author has included a chronology of events surrounding the First Fleet, from 1717 until the death of Arthur Phillip in England in 1814. Research notes are also included along with a comprehensive bibliography and suggestions for further reading.

Many text books have been written about this subject, but David Hill has used diaries, manuscripts and newspaper reports from the time, along with characterization, to bring the story to life, and to cause the reader to feel empathy for the convicts, and those given the task of starting settlement. This is a story of courage, tragedy, survival and the endurance of all involved. It is also a story of the short sightedness and uncaring attitude of the decision makers in the planning stages. In effect the First Fleeters were dumped in a new land, and left to make the best of i,t and survive the best way they could.

My Thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, as I am a lover of history, with a particular interest in the settlement of Australia. However, I was a little disappointed that there doesn’t seem to be any new information given at all. The information in this book could be found in many of the textbooks and histories currently available, if the reader could be bothered to look.

However, the author has written in such a way that this historical tale doesn’t read like a text book. It is written in the style of a novel, and is definitely a page turner. We meet many of the convicts and marines, and come to feel the pain they are suffering with the dreadful degradations and privations that they faced. The reader comes to understand and feel the hardships that the convicts and first settlers faced.

Recommendation

I would recommend David Hill’s book as an easy read and an introduction to Australian history for the new researcher. The subject matter can often be very dry and tedious to read, but the way the author brings the characters and events to life, makes it enjoyable and a page turner.  I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in history, Australian history, genealogy or family history. My recommendation also extends to anyone interested in just a good read. Even without a special interest in the subject, this book would be worthwhile to read.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About The Author

David Hill has had a successful career as Chairman and Managing Director of  the ABC, Chairman of the Australian Football Association, Chief Executive and Director of the State Railway Authority of NSW and Chairman of Sydney Water Corporation.  This is his second historical book. The first being The forgotten Children, which told the story of the children in England who were sent to Australia after World War 2, mostly without the consent of their parents.

Have you read this book. I’d love to hear your thoughts. I really appreciate the time it takes for you to comment and promise to reply to all comments.