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The Exiles

by Christina Bake Kline

GENRE: Historical Fiction

In the early 19th century, naïve Evangeline becomes pregnant and is sent to the penal colony of Australia along with other “convict women.” Life in the colony is brutal and harsh, but is also an opportunity for reinvention. This stirring read details the beginnings of a country that is as dangerous as it is beautiful.

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Author Biography

A #1 New York Times bestselling author of eight novels, including The Exiles, Orphan Train, and A Piece of the World, Christina Baker Kline is published in 40 countries. Her novels have received the New England Prize for Fiction, the Maine Literary Award, and a Barnes & Noble Discover Award, among other prizes, and have been chosen by hundreds of communities, universities and schools as “One Book, One Read” selections. Her essays, articles, and reviews have appeared in publications such as the New York Times and the NYT Book Review, The Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, LitHub, Psychology Today, and Slate.

Kline was born in Cambridge, England, and raised there as well as in the American South and Maine. She is a graduate of Yale, Cambridge, and the University of Virginia, where she was a Henry Hoyns Fellow in Fiction Writing. She has taught fiction and nonfiction writing, poetry, English literature, literary theory, and women’s studies at Yale, NYU, and the University of Virginia, and served as Writer-in-Residence at Fordham University for four years. She is a recipient of several Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Fellowships and Writer-in-Residence Fellowships at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Kline lives in New York City and Southwest Harbor, Maine with her husband, David Kline. They are the parents of three sons, Hayden, Will, and Eli. - Author's website

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In 1840, Mathinna, the orphaned daughter of an Aboriginal chief, is adopted by the governor's wife in Hobart City in what is now Tasmania. Though the story revisits Mathinna, the focus shifts to England, where Evangeline Stokes has been wrongfully accused of theft and sentenced to transport. Her long, harsh trip is complicated by her pregnancy, though it is lightened somewhat by friendship with brash, also-pregnant Olive; Hazel, who has midwifery skills; and the sympathetic ship's surgeon. Then tragedy strikes, and by the time they arrive at the prison, Hazel is posing as the mother of Ruby, Evangeline's daughter. As in Orphan Train (2013), Kline deftly balances tragedy and pathos, making happy endings hard-earned and satisfying. Mathinna does not fare so well here, nor did her real-life counterpart, but the fact that even her sad, untimely ending does not receive the imaginative treatment of the other characters' stories makes her inclusion confusing, if not cruel. Still, book groups will find much to discuss, such as the uses of education, both formal and informal, in this moving work of historical women's fiction. -- Susan Maguire (Reviewed 7/1/2020) (Booklist, vol 116, number 21, p26)

Publisher's Weekly

In the gripping latest from Kline (Orphan Train), three women try to carve out lives in mid-19th-century colonial Australia. Aborigine Matthina is eight years old when she’s seen by the wife of the governor of an English settlement on a visit to her home island, Wybalenna. After learning Matthina can speak English, the woman decides to take her back to Flinders in southern Australia as a curiosity and an experiment in forced civilization. Meanwhile, in London, Evangeline is the orphaned daughter of a vicar working as a governess to the children of a wealthy family. But after Evangeline is seduced by the family’s eldest son and her secret pregnancy is discovered, she is arrested, held in Newgate prison, and sentenced to transport to the penal colonies of Australia. She shares the voyage to her new life with Hazel, the hardscrabble daughter of a midwife who turns her knowledge of medicine into an asset aboard the ship. The narratives converge when their ship docks in Van Diemen’s Land (modern-day Tasmania), where Matthina, who has been adopted by the island’s governor, now lives. The women, all brought to their new lives against their wills, become a lens through which to see the development of colonial Australia. Filled with surprising twists, empathetic prose, and revealing historical details, Kline’s resonant, powerful story will please any historical fiction fan. (Sept.) --Staff (Reviewed 07/20/2020) (Publishers Weekly, vol 267, issue 29, p)


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