*Starred Review* This is the first volume in an ambitious and widely anticipated history of Keneally’s native Australia. This opening effort begins with a geologic description of the formation of the continent as it separated from the supercontinent of Pangaea about 140 million years ago. It concludes with the Eureka miner rebellion, a critical episode in the development of Australian democracy. Keneally, a Booker Prize–winning novelist and nonfiction writer, utilizes some wonderful vignettes gleaned from primary sources to advance his narrative. Aborigines, transplanted convicts, settlers, soldiers, and miners all play their part. Keneally conveys the sense of wonder and confusion as Aborigines encounter their first European. Convicts describe the suffering aboard transport ships and the grind of carving out an existence in a new and harsh land. There are recurring themes: first, Keneally stresses the exotic quality of the land, produced by its geographic isolation. And, second, he traces the steady evolution from a hierarchical social structure to a more egalitarian, democratic civilization. This is a wonderful beginning of a project that should provide enjoyment for both general readers and scholars. --Jay Freeman
About the Author
Thomas Keneally is a novelist, playwright, and nonfiction author who is best-known for the Booker Prizewinning novel Schindler's Ark, which was adapted into the movie Schindler's List. His other titles include the Penguin Lives biography Abraham Lincoln, American Scoundrel: The Life of the Notorious Civil War General Dan Sickles, and A Commonwealth of Thieves: The Improbable Birth of Australia.