South of Darkness by John Marsden
John Marsden is best known for his young adult novel Tomorrow, When the War Began. South of Darkness is his first adult novel, and what a fabulous book he has penned!
Set in the last 1700s, South of Darkness follows the story of thirteen-year-old Barnaby Fletch, an orphan trying to survive on his wits on the dark streets of London. Life is undoubtedly hard, and he lurches from crisis to another. But then he hears about a paradise on the other side of the world – Botany Bay – and he decides to commit a crime so he can be transported there. The crime can’t be too big, or he will be hung, but it has to be significant enough to receive this sentence. He succeeds, but will Botany Bay be the paradise he is imagining? And first he has to survive prison and the long ship journey across the world…
John Marsden is a brilliant writer, and I thoroughly enjoyed Barnaby’s youthful character, the sense of place on the sewer-ridden streets of London and the early settlements in Australia. His use of the language of the day is extremely well-done and is an integral part of the novel. I’m looking forward to reading more adventures of Barnaby Fletch in the future, as South of Darkness definitely reads as if it is a start of a new series.