Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Book Review: Buckley's Chance by Garry Linnell #BRPreview

Buckley's Chance
Garry Linnell
The greatest Australian story never told - until now.
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Imprint: Michael Joseph
Publication date: 1st October 2019
Genre: History / Society & Culture
Pages: 368
RRP: $34.99AUD
Format read: Trade paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via Better Reading

He fought Napoleon’s army and survived.
He was sent to the gallows and escaped the noose.
Now he is in chains and on his way to the other side of the world. What happens next will become one of the most remarkable survival stories in history.
The 19th century has just begun. The world is at war. England, ruled by a mad king, is exiling thousands of criminals to an old land that has become its newest dumping ground.
One of those prisoners is William Buckley, barely 21, a former soldier sentenced to life for stealing two small pieces of cloth. He’s a giant for his times. But it’s not just his towering frame that sets him apart. It’s his desire for freedom that will make his story so unique - even in an era famous for outrageous acts of bravery and heroism.
On a moonlit night Buckley escapes and disappears into the Australian bush. Discovered and adopted by an aboriginal tribe who regard him as a ghost, he is initiated into their rich and complex culture. Given up for dead by his white captors, he will not be seen again for more than 30 years until he emerges one day...carrying a spear, dressed in animal skins and having forgotten the English language.
Buckley’s Chance is a profound journey into a turning point in history where cultures clash, bitter rivals go to war and the body count mounts.
It’s also the story of a man who refuses to be held down.
A man prepared to defy all odds and take a chance.
Buckley’s chance.

In Buckley’s Chance Linnell has written a thorough and true account of Australia’s settlement. The events are not glossed over or reinvented to be politically correct.

We follow William Buckley through his army days to being convicted of stealing and instead of a death sentence a lenient judge has him transported to Australia.

Enduring a long and harrowing journey to Australia by ship Buckley escapes first chance he gets. After weeks on the run he is found, near death, and taken in by an aboriginal family. He goes on to spend 30 years with the indigenous people.

Linnell’s impeccably researched novel is heavy on the politics of early Port Phillip and Hobart. It includes the feud between John Fawkner and John Batman and the slaughter of unknown numbers of aboriginals.

The novel is delivered in second person narration as if the narrator is telling Buckley’s story to Buckley himself. I’ve never been keen on second person narration and I felt that the story kept going off on tangents. It didn’t have a straight timeline and kept jumping back and forward in time which left me a bit lost at times.

Linnell has written an excellent novel on the early history of Australia but for me I would have preferred a bit more drama and more on the perils and hardships of everyday life on the run in this arid land.


4 stars for content – 3 stars for delivery.

Garry Linnell is one of Australia's most experienced journalists.
A Walkley Award winner for feature writing, he has been editor-in-chief of The Bulletin, editor of The Daily Telegraph, director of new and current affairs for the nine network and editorial director of Fairfax. He spent four years as co-host of the Breakfast Show on 2UE and is also the author of three previous books - Football Ltd: the inside story of the AFL, Raelene: Sometimes Beaten, Never Conquered, and Playing God: The Rise and Fall of Gary Ablet.

This review is part of the Book Lover Book Review Aussie Author Challenge 
and part of the NonFiction reader challenge Category: History

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