Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Book Review: In a Great Southern Land (Historical Fiction)

In a Great Southern Land
Mary-Anne O'Connor

Publisher: Harper Collins Australia 
Imprint: HQ Fiction
Publication Date: 18th March 2019
Pages: 416
RRP: $32.99
Format Read: Paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher


From the emerald hills of Ireland to a wild colonial land comes an epic story of love, brotherhood and the fight for liberty....
1851: After the death of her father, young Eve Richards is destitute. Her struggle to survive sees her deported in chains to the colony of New South Wales, penniless and alone. But here in this strange new world fortune smiles on the spirited, clever Eve in the shape of a respectable job offer that will lead to a quiet, secure life. Then the fiery and charismatic Irishman Kieran Clancy crosses her path...

For Kieran Clancy, the kindest man on earth, and his brother Liam, the promise of free passage and land in this brave new world is a chance to leave the grief and starvation of County Clare behind. But while Liam works to farm their land, Kieran has the fire of gold-fever upon him and is drawn to the goldfields of Ballarat. As tensions grow on the goldfields, and with the blood of an Irish rebel still beating through his heart, Kieran finds himself caught up in the cataclysmic events at the Eureka Stockade and faces the decision of a lifetime: whether or not, when it comes to love, blood will remain thicker than water...


O’Connor has excelled with this emotional and heart-wrenching saga of a family striving for a new beginning in a foreign untamed land.

I love reading books on early Australian setters, both convicts and free settlers. I quite often find reading about the early days of Australia raw and confronting. In a Great Southern Land is no exception, although not as harsh as some I’ve read that delve into the atrocities against convicts and the aboriginals. O’Connor steers more towards the difficulties of living in a harsh, barren and isolated area and the budding romance between Kieran and Eve.

Irishman Kieran Clancy and his extended family have been granted free passage to New South Wales and a parcel of land on arrival. Kieran had a burning desire for vengeance against oppression. Their leaving doesn’t happen without much controversy and heartache.

Eve Richards finds herself without a job and back on the streets of Vauxhall, Liverpool. A misadventure with police ends with her in prison and sentenced to a life of servitude in Australia.

Kieran was a cocky Irishman very sure of himself but also sure of what was right and what was wrong. He would always put someone else’s safety and rights before his own. He lived his life passionately and impetuously. Always doing what was right.

The story follows Kieran working at the shipyard, in 1800’s Sydney, where he teams up with Dave spending their spare time drinking and fighting then moves on to the goldfields where, like so many others, they hoped to make their fortune.

Kieran’s brother Liam, sister Eileen her husband and three children settle on their property in Orange waiting for Kieran to join them.

A chance encounter with Kieran ends with Eve working as a servant and companion to the mistress of an isolated country property.

In a Great Southern Land encompasses what it means to be free incorporating the free settlers, convicts, the gold rush, Eureka Stockade, prejudice and the general hardships of a harsh landscape.

In a Great Southern Land is an incredibly moving tale and the author’s notes at the end are equally as moving. Set aside some time, this is one book you won’t be able to put down.

My rating   10/10 

Letter 'I' in the 2019 A-Z challenge

Photo credit: Goodreads

Mary-Anne O'Connor has a combined arts education degree with specialties in environment, music and literature. She works in marketing and co-wrote/edited A Brush with Light and Secrets of the Brush with Kevin Best.                                                                          Mary-Anne lives in a house overlooking her beloved bushland in Northern Sydney with her husband Anthony, their two sons Jimmy and Jack, and their very spoilt dog Saxon. This is her fourth major novel. Her previous novels, Galipoli Street (2015), Worth Fighting For (2016) and War Flower (2017), have all been bestsellers.

You can connect with the author at the following sites:
Website   ||  Facebook 


  1. Great review! Glad you enjoyed it!

  2. I just noticed the price of $32...are books usually that expensive in Australia? Just curious :-)

    1. Yes, that’s the average price for a book in an independent book store. Large retail stores like Kmart & Target are usually $16 as they subsidise them.

  3. I haven’t read any books on this subject!

  4. Wow, 10 out of 10, well done. Great review.

  5. Yay - a new name for me - thanx!

  6. Sounds very good! I've never read anything set in Australia. Might need to change that.

  7. I don't think I've ever read a book about early Australian settlers and it sounds so interesting! Great review :)

  8. Oh Ireland! It sounds as though this book has many different locations, but my love for Ireland is what grabbed my attention first ;)

    I'll have to check out this book! Thanks for sharing.