The Ship Wife

In Ireland in 1795, young housemaid Elizabeth is arrested and charged with sedition.

On the transport ship, confined to the captain’s cabin, Elizabeth must please and obey. As the captain’s ship wife, she survives one of the most notorious transportation voyages to New South Wales. Six convicts are flogged to death. This so exceeds the usual brutality of transportation that Governor Hunter convenes a magistrates’ court to hear charges against the captain.

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In Ireland in 1795, young housemaid Elizabeth is arrested and charged with sedition.

On the transport ship, confined to the captain’s cabin, Elizabeth must please and obey. As the captain’s ship wife, she survives one of the most notorious transportation voyages to New South Wales. Six convicts are flogged to death. This so exceeds the usual brutality of transportation that Governor Hunter convenes a magistrates’ court to hear charges against the captain.

Shunned by her fellow convicts, scorned by free settlers, and pregnant with the captain’s child, Elizabeth must establish a home and a life in the rough town of Sydney.
The Ship Wife challenges assumptions about female convict history. It tells the story of a real woman’s struggle for dignity and independence in an Empire built on slavery and injustice.

Anne Vines

Anne Vines won the Boroondara Prize in 2014 and the Keith Carroll Award in 2020 for short stories. She was shortlisted for the Alan Marshall Short Story Award 1987, The Age Short Story Award 2009, the Henry Handel Richardson Short Story Award 2011, and the international Wasafiri New Writing Prize, 2014. She was commended in the Varuna Harper-Collins Award in 2007 for her novel’s “compelling, very exciting voice” and “character-driven unusual twists” which “build up a head of steam”. Her novel, A Good Killer, entered in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript in 2008, was commended by the judges for its “fast-paced storytelling”. Anne’s short fiction was published in Word U Up 2014, Award Winning Australian Writing 2015, Wasafiri Magazine Online 2016, Ring of Words 2018 and Boroondara Literary Awards Anthology 2020. Anne has worked on her novels with Peter Bishop and Helen Barnes-Bulley at Varuna, with writers Lee Kofman, Toni Jordan, Sydney Smith and Janey Runci, and with editor Irina Dunn. Anne Vines completed a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne, concentrating on Literature and the history of Australia and Britain. She taught at secondary schools in country Victoria, Melbourne and London and at the Council for Adult Education, Melbourne. She managed student welfare, English curriculum and staff professional development. She co-wrote the VCE English and Literature courses and was a public examination assessor of those subjects. Anne has lived in England and Germany, and for shorter periods in Ireland, Wales, Spain, Italy and France. While traveling to UK, Ireland, Europe, USA, South America and Asia, she carried out research in libraries, archives and communities for her novels, including The Ship Wife.

Sample

from : 1 Evanton Estate, Wicklow Hills
County Wicklow, 1792
Just after daybreak, sitting in the cart behind two men and a woman and wedged between portmanteaux and boxes, Elizabeth gazed intently at her street, which was all she knew of the world. She waved at her parents, grandmother, sisters, cousins and neighbours. It was hard to believe she would not see them for years.

The cart clattered into the wider street that she hardly knew and then along to the high street, past the green and the big cathedral. Soon they were driving out along the road to the country. Dublin Town took so little time to ride through and leave behind. Here, there were fields and scarcely a house or shed for miles. Cows she saw, but not people. She must get used to the countryside. In her new life as a housemaid, she would have country fields and hills all around. She unwrapped her small portion of bread and took a bite. It was cold in the wind; even in her shawl and bonnet she shivered. She must not eat too much at first or she would be hungry and too cold as night drew near. After a time, her head drooped, and she dozed. The wobbling of the cart had a rhythm that soothed her.

When she woke, the cart was stopped in a crowded village street. The driver told her to walk about.

Granny had told her this, too. “If a body stays on the cart the whole journey, the bones and all will be stiff for days.”

“But don’t go wandering out of sight,” Da had warned. “Don’t trust anyone in the villages, especially young men lounging about.”

She pressed her nose to the window of the shop next to the inn and looked over the bonnets and ribbons. There was a statue of some nobleman in the middle of the street with steps around it. She sat on one of the steps for a few moments and looked to see if there was water anywhere. Her mother had worried about her not getting anything to drink. Granny had suggested asking for a cup of water at the inn, but Elizabeth feared she would be sent packing, like in Dublin Town.

She stood up and walked back and forth, trying and failing to ignore the jostling boys rushing past. Then she saw them grabbing something off a tree near the corner and running away. No one came after them to scold or whip them. She followed their path and saw a big pear tree overhanging the street. It grew behind a high stone wall. On the ground near her were two pears, one half smashed and one whole. She looked about her, stooped quickly, scooped them up into her shawl and scurried back to the coach. Though she could not eat them till she was safely away, they felt so soft and plump in her hand under her shawl that it was all she could do not to grin in triumph.

The pears made up for the cold wind. As the cart trundled off, she ate the soft smashed one – so sweet and running with juice – a taste she had not known, for it was only old apples that they ate at home. She pulled her shawl close about her and pressed her back against the wooden rails as the cart rocked back and forth. No one else was travelling on with her so she sang softly to herself and imagined her future life in the Big House. Granny had described the outside of the house, but not the grand rooms or the ladies’ clothes, for she had lived in the outer region of the estate on her small farm and did not know the ways of the household.

They drove past so many streams that Elizabeth lost count. Twice she spied a castle and once they drove close to its gates. Who would believe such great high buildings, half-ruined but still so grand. Way off were such hills – no, mountains – they took her breath away, they were so beautiful. To think that she would have never seen them if she had stayed in Dublin Town.

ISBN : 9781922830241
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ISBN: 9781922830241, 9781922830258
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Page Length: 244
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Ebook, PB

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Customer Reviews

1-5 of 3 reviews

  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    The Ship Wife brings to burgeoning life Irishwoman Elizabeth Rafferty, her determined, shrewd survival of casual, brutal usage, by a succession of masters, to prosper as a pardoned convict in New South Wales and later Hobart Town. With enviable skill, Anne Vines makes vibrantly real Elizabeth’s abasement and recovery, her joys, terrors, loves and losses, in this finely-woven tissue of beguiling detail, rich in historical fact and lyrical invention.

    – Cath Kenneally, journalist, broadcaster, novelist, award-winning poet, author of Room Temperature and Around Here

    July 24, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    Meticulously researched and deeply empathetic, this is an unforgettable story of a woman who overcomes impossible odds to survive.

    –Toni Jordan, author of Prettier if She Smiled More

    July 24, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    Since childhood in Tasmania, I have been fascinated and appalled by the stories of the lives of women in the early days of the British invasion of this country. The Ship Wife is a graphic and dramatic account, rendered in fiction, that is a welcome addition to my reading. The historical facts of the life are completely arresting, while the narrative presented is fully dramatic and engaging, delivered in a traditional structure and tone. This saga of one humble Irish woman’s experience of some of the worst things that could happen to her in the early nineteenth century is startling and compelling in its vivid and unflinching detail. The novel is closely based on a vast body of meticulous research into the life of a woman who was wrongly convicted of sedition and was transported to Australia, suffering the most appalling conditions on the journey and in the colony, yet preserving her integrity and spirit. It is a tale, heart-rending and horrifying, of the triumph of one female life in a world of violent male dominance. Yet there are wonderful moments of poetic beauty with which the spirit of the protagonist, Elizabeth, as well as that of the reader, is nourished and uplifted. There are even male characters who display considerable fairness and humanity in this world of blind and overwhelming patriarchy. With something of the skill of a painter as well as a psychologist, author Anne Vines captivates the reader’s imagination and sympathy throughout. This novel is a glowing addition to the body of historical Australian fiction.
    – Carmel Bird

    July 31, 2023

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