Nanberry | Jackie French

You know what you’re going to get with a Jackie French novel.
Her historical fiction is formulaic, but you know what? It’s a formula that works.

Nanberry is true to her usual winning style. It’s easy to read, well-paced, with good dialogue.

French finds the human-side to every period of history that she tackles.
This time the historical setting is Sydney Cove during the desperate, bleak time for the white settlement as they await the arrival of the Second Fleet.
It is also a bleak and desperate time for the natives of the Sydney Basin as they are devastated by the small pox.
Nanberry is a young boy who is one of the few survivors in his clan.
He is found half-alive by one of the new colony’s assistant surgeons and nursed back to health.

I found the story particularly poignant as a recent walk around my suburb led me to a quiet park jutting out from one of the headlands into Sydney Harbour. A sign there told the story of the local tribes. When the First Fleet arrived there were between 6000-8000 Aboriginal people around the Sydney Basin area. 10 years later there were only 300 left.

This is the story of Nanberry.

The amazing story of Australia’s first surgeon and the boy he adopted. Ages 12+ two brothers – one black, one white – and a colony at the end of the world It’s 1789, and as the new colony in Sydney Cove is established, Surgeon John White defies convention and adopts Nanberry, an Aboriginal boy, to raise as his son. Nanberry is clever and uses his unique gifts as an interpreter to bridge the two worlds he lives in. With his white brother, Andrew, he witnesses the struggles of the colonists to keep their precarious grip on a hostile wilderness. And yet he is haunted by the memories of the Cadigal warriors who will one day come to claim him as one of their own.

This true story follows the brothers as they make their way in the world – one as a sailor, serving in the Royal Navy, the other a hero of the Battle of Waterloo. No less incredible is the enduring love between the gentleman surgeon and the convict girl who was saved from the death penalty and became a great lady in her own right.

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