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English Passengers

Length: 20 hrs and 26 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (29 ratings)

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Summary

It is 1857, and Reverend Geoffrey Wilson has departed England to prove the literal truth of the Bible. The expedition heads towards Tasmania, where he is convinced he will find the real Garden of Eden. But the other passengers have their own agendas.

Dr Potter is developing a sinister thesis, and the ship is crewed by smugglers of contraband brandy and tobacco. As the English passengers near Peevay's land, their bizarre notions become painfully at odds with reality. Their destination is no Eden but a world of hunting parties and colonial ethnic cleansing. A mighty collision is approaching....

©2000 Matthew Kneale (P)2001 W. F. Howes Ltd

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A wonderful book.

This is a devastating account of the awfulness of British colonialism, its brutality, how good men got caught up in a bad system. It deals specifically with the colonisation of Tasmania, which is a particularly awful story, but somehow manages to be both very moving and very funny. Highly recommended.

4 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Disappointing

It may be that having read other reviews and the fact that book has won the Whitbread prize raised my expectation too high. However that might be, I have abandoned this after struggling for more than 8 hours with it. It was well written but I found the characters more of a caricature or representing a point of view, intellectual stance or type of experience than real multi-faceted people, I didn't feel involved with any of them and found their accounts laboured, long-winded and tedious. The book seemed to be an attempt to fictionalise the colonial experience in New Zealand that was neither an interesting novel nor an absorbing piece of history. I wasn't sure how much the readers, although good, added to the sense of caricature and heavy handedness and it may be better read in print. I found myself putting off listening so eventually decided to abandon it. I should also add that as far as I got there were no female characters with a voice - I don't know if one appears later - all the story tellers were male, which also put me off.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A great novel improved

The narration of English Passengers is pitch perfect and brings the characters of Peevay Potter and the others vividly alive. I was disappointed that it had to end.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Well written and performed

Loved this story of the illl fated Captain and his ship. As disasters befall him, he tries to salvage what he can from the situation, heaping more bad luck upon them all.
The description of the Aboriginal peoples woes are no less well written and the dreadful things done to them in the name of improvement are really well portrayed.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Gloriously told Tasmanian historical fiction

I loved this; fascinating, tragic and funny in equal measures it tells such a vivid story covering Victorian religious and scientific morals and views, the lives and ultimate fate of the native people and much more. The characters are rich and well performed- I devoured it!

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A masterclass in dramatic irony

This early example of multiple narratives is perfect for the subject matter of clashing cultures. I have read a lot of Australian colonial stories, and feel this writer has really understood and dealt with the invasion of Australia in a very nuanced way. I would have preferred a few more voice actors, as a few of the characters sounded too alike, but this is nit picking.