The Philosopher’s Daughters
by Alison Booth
Publication Date: April 2, 2020
Paperback & eBook; 356 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
A tale of two very different sisters whose 1890s voyage from London into remote outback Australia becomes a journey of self-discovery, set against a landscape of wild beauty and savage dispossession.
London in 1891: Harriet Cameron is a talented young artist whose mother died when she was barely five. She and her beloved sister Sarah were brought up by their father, radical thinker James Cameron. After adventurer Henry Vincent arrives on the scene, the sisters’ lives are changed forever. Sarah, the beauty of the family, marries Henry and embarks on a voyage to Australia. Harriet, intensely missing Sarah, must decide whether to help her father with his life’s work or devote herself to painting.
When James Cameron dies unexpectedly, Harriet is overwhelmed by grief. Seeking distraction, she follows Sarah to Australia, and afterwards into the Northern Territory outback, where she is alienated by the casual violence and great injustices of outback life.
Her rejuvenation begins with her friendship with an Aboriginal stockman and her growing love for the landscape. But this fragile happiness is soon threatened by murders at a nearby cattle station and by a menacing station hand seeking revenge.
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Praise for The Philosopher’s Daughters
“A lyrical tale of wild, frontier Australia. Evocative, insightful, thought-provoking.” -Karen Viggers, author
“Booth is superb at the small detail that creates a life, and the large one that gives it meaning.” –
Marion Halligan, author
“Delicately handled historical drama with a theme of finding self, both in relationships and art, backed by issues on race relations in Australia and women’s rights.” -Tom Flood, author and editor
About the Author
Alison Booth was born in Melbourne, brought up in Sydney and has worked in the UK and in Australia as a professor as well as a novelist. Her most recent novel, A Perfect Marriage, is in the genre of contemporary fiction, while her first three novels (Stillwater Creek, The Indigo Sky, and A Distant Land) are historical fiction spanning the decades 1950s through to the early 1970s. Alison’s work has been translated into French and has also been published by Reader’s Digest Select Editions in both Asia and Europe. Alison, who holds a PhD in Economics from the London School of Economics, is an active public speaker and has participated in many writers’ festivals and literary events.
from Chapter 26 ‘Cleaning Country’
She pulled out a clean sheet of writing paper and picked up her pen. She began to write very fast, not thinking in advance what she would say, simply letting the words pour out.
My dear Charles,
Thank you for your letter. It is so kind of you to write with the news that you know will interest me. I shall try my best to reciprocate.
The Aborigines’ belief in a spiritual existence may intrigue you. There are many layers of meaning in their lives and much of it remains inaccessible to Europeans, and maybe always will. The Aborigines believe in the immortality of human souls. Children are born out of a spiritual world and spend a lifetime journeying back to this. Elders are close to their ancestors, to their Dreaming, and for this reason to be respected. Yet it isn’t only the spirits of men and women that exist timelessly but the whole of creation. The Dreaming place is important because it gives an identity and a sense of belonging. This is as much as I have been able to find out so far from my conversations with the women.
Yesterday afternoon there were fires near here, on the far side of the billabong. I felt frightened and asked Bella, who is a housemaid here, if we should worry. She said no. It seems that the Aborigines use these fires to manage the land, and the usual Dimbulah Downs manager has encouraged this. They call it ‘cleaning country’, Bella said, and they do it from early to mid dry season to avoid the potential for larger more destructive fires later in the dry season. They light a number of small fires on damp ground, typically not all at once, and they create a semicircle of these, with each end joining up to the creek. This way they create a firebreak around an area.
Yesterday I watched the dense plumes of black smoke rising into the still air. There were a dozen or so black kites circling around the burning area, waiting to swoop on any escaping small marsupials or reptiles.
Not long before dark I could see a wall of flame where they had lit the nearest fire. Later, after nightfall, the clouds were red tinged and occasionally I heard the sound of what I took to be a burnt tree crashing to the ground. Anxious the fires might get out of control, I had a bad night’s sleep, thinking all night I could smell smoke in the air. In bed, I heard the sound of the corrugated-iron roof creaking against its constraints as the temperature dropped from ninety degrees Fahrenheit to the high fifties. That seems very chilly in a building that leaks cold air. Periodically I imagined the smell of smoke was stronger and got up to look out for fires. There was nothing: the Aborigines had it all under control. Eventually I fell asleep to a lullaby of chirping geckos, interspersed with the distant sound of the inevitable bush curlews.
After breakfast this morning, I went for a walk around the far side of the billabong. The dry leaves on the path crunched underfoot. The fire remains were still smoking; the pandanus palms and gum trees burnt but not completely, the black kites still circling, and a three-quarter moon floating in an already harsh blue sky.
Then I thought that I too need to ‘clean my country’. I carry with me so much baggage from the past. To what extent are my views my own, formed by careful thought? Or have they instead been moulded by Father, and my lifelong desire to see him happy?
I don’t yet know the answers to these questions. But here, in this savagely beautiful country, I intend to find them.
Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, June 15
Review at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, June 17
Excerpt at Donna’s Book Blog
Thursday, June 18
Guest Post at Gwendalyn’s Books
Friday, June 19
Feature at What Is That Book About
Saturday, June 20
Feature at Reading is My Remedy
Tuesday, June 23
Review at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals
Wednesday, June 24
Excerpt at The Caffeinated Bibliophile
Friday, June 26
Interview at Jorie Loves A Story
Monday, June 29
Review at A Darn Good Read
Wednesday, July 1
Excerpt at Bookworlder
Friday, July 3
Feature at I’m All About Books
Monday, July 6
Review at Impressions In Ink
During the Blog Tour, we are giving away a copy of The Philosopher’s Daughters! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.
– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on July 6th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
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– Only one entry per household.
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– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.