Voice of an Australian convict in my handbag

Historical novelist, Rosemary Noble, is presenting an extract from her first novel entitled ‘Search for the Light‘. 

Rosemary’s novels are powerful and engaging explorations of historical periods: strong, empathetic characters and beautiful language transport the reader to the time and place.  

Rosemary researches the historical periods thoroughly, but the characters take over and tell their stories. In a letter to readers, Rosemary introduces the inspiration behind her moving novel, ‘Search for the Light’.

Dear Readers,

I am delighted to present an extract from my historical saga: ‘Search for the Light’.

This is a story of love and friendship, of three women out of the thirteen thousand transported to Van Diemen’s Land alone. Until a few years ago they had been written out of history, their contribution ignored, denigrated for behaviour unseemly in a woman of the times, constantly punished for minor misdemeanours. Some were strong enough to survive and their contribution deserves to be recognised.

I sat down one morning, and my character, Sarah, appeared out of nowhere, a victim and survivor of abuse. Readers love Sarah and I grew to love her. Once or twice I wondered if she should die but she told me, no, and I’m relieved she stayed my hand. Of all the characters, she did find the light and it was inside herself.

In the extract, Sarah has been given a life sentence of transportation for manslaughter. She is waiting in Newgate prison and Nora, the main protagonist, is another prisoner who has befriended her. Sarah is the only character written in the first person because I strongly believe she wrote her own story.

Thank you for your interest and your time.

Rosemary Noble

Words from the novel:

My name is Sarah Mawby I told her, but I don’t really know what my name is or even If my mother ever gave me one. Mawby was the name of the street where I was left. No, I don’t know who my parents are. No one claimed me. Why would they? Just another wailing mouth to feed.

I don’t know my age, about fourteen I think. I have never had a birthday. Some of us foundlings survived our childhood, but it was just luck, lots of children didn’t. We were given a cot to share, as many as ten to a cot, a few patched second-hand clothes, a morsel of food, if it could be called that; much worse than in here it was.

When sickness came, whole cotfuls of babies succumbed in turn. They told us they had gone to live with God. God obviously didn’t want me. I’m not surprised.

Oh yes, we were taught to read and count. They didn’t teach us to write. Too dangerous, we might write and tell someone how we were treated. Sundays, we went twice to church and heard all about hell fire and damnation, whilst we shivered in our thin smocks. What else did we get? Oh yes, the stick. There was lots of that. Was there love? I didn’t believe it existed. I’d heard of it but I never had any.

Then I watched Nora with her father today and saw love for the first time. It was the most beautiful thing I ever saw.

How Nora and Sarah fit into the story:

A moment’s foolish mistake costs sixteen-year old Nora her freedom and her family. Sentenced to transportation she has to grow up fast to survive prison, the long journey and then life as an assigned servant in Van Diemen’s Land of the 1820s. She is sustained by real friendships with other prisoners, Sarah and Helen. Can anyone of them overcome the pitfalls of convict life to become pioneering settlers of modern day Tasmania? This is a story of love and friendship amidst the trials of 19th century Australian colonial life.

Opinions of the reviewers:

“There were moments when I was doing the literary equivalent of shouting at the TV. It moved me, I felt alarm, indignation, great sadness and elation.” Ingenue Magazine Summer 2017

“Rosemary Noble writes with immense skill and takes great care with the characters in this story and I look forward to meeting some of them again in her next book.” John Charles Hall June 2017

“The characters are brilliantly defined; the narrative flows and the historical knowledge of the author is admirable. A fabulous read.” Catrin August 2016

More about the author:

I’m probably a frustrated historian but I’m making up for it now.

This was my first book, so a measure of relief in having achieved this goal. I thought it was going to be my one and only but at the end I wrote an epilogue, which is the daughter of Helen, another main character, looking back. And the sequel was born. So, in many ways I didn’t need to miss the characters, they were looking over my shoulder when I wrote The Digger’s Daughter and are still breathing down my neck as I write the third book in the series.

Reading ‘Ranter’s Wharf’, Rosemary’s latest release, made me feel passionate about my ancestors’ suffering. Following Rosemary’s extract and information, I have bought ‘Search for the Light’.  I am looking forward to finding out more about Australian history through Rosemary’s characters.  Digger’s Daughter, the second Australian Saga book, is also available now.

To find out more about this wonderful author, please visit my interview with Rosemary.

Please read my review of Ranter’s Wharf – it will give you a flavour of how Rosemary brings history to life.  Rosemary is the historical novelist with a social conscience. 





Please see all my extracts at Book Extracts and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.


One thought on “Voice of an Australian convict in my handbag”

  1. I have this on my Kindle and have not yet read it. I loved “The Digger’s Daughter” and “Ranter’s Wharf”, so, after reading your letter, I am moving this book high up on my ever-teetering pile of to-be-reads. Thanks to both Jessie and Rosemary for this interesting blog. We are so lucky to be introduced to new books all the time. It is certainly widening my world and it is good for writers to read, read, read and not just to write.

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