Captain Charles O'Hara Booth, Commandant of Port Arthur Penal Settlement in Van Diemen's Land, fears his life will change when Sir John Franklin arrives to replace Colonel Arthur as Governor. As Franklin and his wife Jane discover, the colony is run by a clique of Arthur's former army officers, who have no intention of relinquishing power to a naval 'hero' reputed to be a simpleton. Clashes begin, observed by Harriet Adair, who has come to the island with Mrs Anna Rochester, a woman partially recovered from years living as a madwoman in the attic of Thornfield Hall. They are searching for the truth about her past in the West Indies...This astonishing and historically accurate novel intriguingly and brilliantly links Sir John Franklin's great tale of exploration and empire with Jane Eyre's iconic love story, questioning the relationship between history and fiction. It also considers the human cost of colonisation, and shows how these events lead inexorably to Franklin's last fatal expedition.
Jennifer Livett was born in Hampshire but the family immigrated to Tasmania in 1952, when she was a child. She spent most of her life there, completing a PhD in English and becoming a tutor and lecturer in the English Department at the University of Tasmania, where she worked for nearly twenty years. During this time Livett was well published in both mainstream and academic journals. After retirement she enrolled in printmaking at the Tasmanian School of Art and contributed work to several exhibitions in Hobart. The early art of the penal settlement features in Livett's rich novel. She now lives in Sydney.