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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
It must have been difficult living in the penal colonies of what we now know as Australia, halfway around the world from home with little or no chance of returning. To those sent either as military personnel or convicts, it must have felt like what people today would consider a one-way trip to Mars. However, there were people there before the English began the settlements, building communities using the prisoners as an unpaid workforce. Aboriginals had roamed the continent long before white people claimed supremacy. When Sean Kelly, a convict, is sent to Moreton Bay in 1824, little did he know what lay ahead. And as the continent grew into a great nation, the generations that followed added their own stories to the tapestry of life in the rugged, difficult, and sometimes tumultuous life in the Australian outback.
Richard J Carroll’s epic novel, White Ghosts: A Saga of the Petries, a Unique Australian Pioneering Family, is a powerful historical novel set initially set in two countries, half a world apart: Australia and Scotland. It follows the lives of the Petrie family, three generations, over the course of a hundred years. The plot begins with Sean Kelly, the felon sentenced to life in a penal colony in Australia, and Andrew Petrie, a Scot who witnessed the massive fire that destroyed most of Edinburgh, and evolves into a drama of politics, intrigue, romance, adventure, violence, and so much more. The family saga wouldn’t be complete without introducing the aboriginals who opposed the white invaders, who made it difficult for many settlers to start a new life in an untamed, strange new world. The author has thoroughly researched the eras in which the story unravels and the reader feels like they are living through a real-life drama, not unlike other monumental family sagas like Colleen McCullough’s The Thorn Birds, Alex Haley’s Roots, and Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth and so many others. Compelling. Fascinating.