The colonization of Australia has many aspects and has caused casaulties, strife, and devastation that still marks Australia today. In “Sarah Thornhill” some of these aspects come to the fore. Sarah is the daughter of a man, who was “sent off” – a convict who has worked hard and established a small, well-run farm in what is still the outback. She grows up loving a man, whose mother was an aboriginal, which is accepted until thoughts of marriage douse the air and an awful secret is confided to Sarah’s first love. Sarah marries another and learns the secret that is much worse than being the daugther of a “sent off”.
The picture of the rough life with undercurrents of secrets in Australia is the aspect of “Sarah Thornhill” that I enjoyed the most. The story line in itself felt weak to me, especially the ending, where Sarah travels to New Zealand to tell a devestating story. I saw it as an attempt to finish the novel with a neat bow, but the result was more like crumbled up laces.
It is my understanding that the author was inspired by her own family history while creating the characters, which is really interesting. Barring journals or famous ancestors, genealogical research can only take you so far, the rest is historical research on the relevant time period (and of course fiction). Without knowing much about Australian history, the historical details of “Sarah Thornhill” are highly believable.
I would recommend “Sarah Thornhill” to readers interested in historical fiction coupled with Australia.