For the Term of His Natural Life (Large Print Edition) Paperback – Large Print, July 21, 2017
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- Paperback : 724 pages
- ISBN-13 : 978-1973802303
- Product dimensions : 7 x 1.64 x 10 inches
- Publisher : CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (July 21, 2017)
- Item Weight : 3.36 pounds
- Language: : English
Best Sellers Rank:
#13,305,218 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #226,381 in Classic Literature & Fiction
- Customer Reviews:
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He brings out the depravity of the system, sadists given a free hand over the life and death of the convicts, the brutality of rape in the Port Arthur dormitory and the terrible pathos of the joint-suicide of "the two poor babies" at Point Puer.
Wonderful characters are sustained through the epic - and in typical Victorian style their paths continually cross, scarcely a degree of separation. The noble, but ill-starred Rufus Dawes; his nemesis and the font of all that is corrupt and evil, John Rex; the sadistic Maurice Frere; the angelic Sylvia Vickers/Frere; the whisky priest, the Rev North; and of course, the notorious cannibal, Gabbett.
Sure, Victorian melodrama permeates all, but Clarke has captured the time and place to perfection. His descriptions of Macquarie Harbour and the Tasman Peninsula bring it all to life - the sights, sounds, the cold, the storms - as well as the history - the convict railway, the desperate pursuit across the peninsula to the hounds and sentries controlling Eaglehawk Neck. The terror for John Rex, trapped in his refuge/cave at the Devil's Kitchen where his delirium conjures up a "shapeless mass of mid-sea birth, some voracious polyp with far-reaching arms and jellied mouth ever open to devour, ready to slide up over the edge of the dripping caves below, and fasten upon him in the darkness'. And the horror of the escaped band of convicts, gradually falling prey to their cannibal leader, until he is the last man - "a gaunt and blood-stained man, clad in tattered yellow, who carried on his back an axe and a bundle ... and opening his bundle with much ceremony he offered his rescuers some of its contents".
And all praise to Marcus Clarke for resisting the temptation of an `and they all lived happily ever after' ending.
The plot is winding and however it sports coincidences that strain the verisimilitude of contemporary readership it never fails to engross and entertain, enlighten and provoke.
In essence a group of convicts escapes from the Port Arthur penitentiary. Getting lost in the wilderness, lacking survival skills and soon running out of food supplies, the men begin to starve and end up cannibalizing each other. It does not get any more brutal than that if it were not for the underlining love story that dramatizes the very pulse of the passion for justice intimated by the narrator.
Clarke's style may at times become but a grotesque imitation of Dickens, while at others it is transported by a the pellucid writing that sublimates the atmosphere of the outback wilderness and the disgraceful penal institution he indicts with an alien melancholy that engulfed in a slough of spiritual disorientation.
The love story is indefinable and best described as tragic, humane and gripping. The ultimate mark of its ascension found in Sylvia's death due to shipwreck.
Some reviewers have commented that it speaks about the Australian mind set, but it should be kept in mind that Marcus Clarke was a transplant and of British origin, of aristocratic birth, and a schoolfellow of Gerald Hopkins at Highgate Grammar School where he was described by the Christian poet as a "kaleidoscopic, parti-coloured, harlequinesque, thaumatropic" - (a thaumatrope was a kind of complementary holographic toy popular during Victorian times).Marcus Clarke arrived in Melbourne only at the age of 16. The narrative is a story that engages on all levels and it is its cynical affectation of indifference to human values that absolves the broodingly pathetic morbidity that on occasions overwhelms.
The picaresque overload of the narrative is infectious and its churlish adaptation of the phantasmagoria of the wild never idyllic and compellingly savage. The sentimental excursions into pathos, as in the story of Pretty Dick, a young boy who lost dies in the Bush, and Poor Joe, the dumb cripple who dies in a flood to save a girl and her lover. These are passionate and generous descriptions of a sensitive soul that has seen nature through its most unsparing cruelty, be it social or primordial.
The most outstanding element of the novel however is found in its forgiving sentiment. As with his favorite Shakespearean quote, "through faults great men are born", we realize that wrongdoings and the severity of circumstances are but the chance to venture into the farthest reaches of the human soul, when all is lost and all is found...
For the Term of His Natural Life is an interesting story full of history and drama. The characters are unforgettable. You feel sorry for Dawes, an innocent man who seems to attract bad fortune in every situation. When things finally do seem to go his way, when he helps Frere and the Vickers', he is betrayed by Frere and things get worse for him.
While For the Term of His Natural Life is interesting and historically informative, I also found it to be depressing. The dark side of human nature is abundant in this novel. Dawes and Sylvia are bright spots in the darkness but things just aren't meant to work out for either of them.