Matthew Kneale's English Passengers tells the story of an 1857 expedition to Tasmania, in search of the Garden of Eden, whose members - including a vicar and a sinister racial theorist - don't realise they are actually aboard a manx smuggling ship. Told by a score of different characters and packed with drama, comedy and punch, English Passengers is a major work of the imagination.
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What the Whitbread judges said: “English Passengers reads like a dream – one of the most enjoyable books we’ve ever read for pure, unadulterated, page-turning excitement. Unquestionably the novel of the year for its stunning historical depth, superb control of narrative and masterly mix of tragedy and comedy, and for Kneale’s remarkable ability to deal with complex historical truths without ever resorting to bogus hypocritical cant. An absolute delight, from start to finish.”From the Back Cover:
The Reverend Geoffrey Wilson sets out from England, in the summer of 1857, with an expedition to find the Garden of Eden, which he is convinced lies on the island of Tasmania. Unknown to him, others in the party have very different agendas, notably the surgeon, Dr Potter, who is developing a revolutionary and sinister thesis of his own on the races of man. To complicate matters further, the ship Wilson has hurriedly chartered, crewed by Captain Kewley and his secretive Manxmen, is in fact an ill-starred smuggling vessel, its hidden compartments filled with contraband brandy and tobacco.
As the vessel journeys haplessly southwards, in Tasmania itself an Aboriginal named Peevay recounts his people’s struggle against the invading British, who prove as lethal in their good intentions as in their cruelty. This is no Eden but a world of hunting parties and colonial ethnic cleansing. As the English passengers near Peevay’s land, their bizarre notions ever more painfully at odds with reality, it grows clear that a mighty collision is approaching.
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Book Description Penguin, 2007. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 141034971