There have been some very fine books, in the last few years, set in the Australian outback. Alison Booth’s historical novel, The Philosopher’s Daughters, joins this canon.

Set in the late nineteenth century, it moves between London and remote Australia, and focuses on sisters Harriet and Sarah, daughters of radical James Cameron. While close, the two women are very different in nature, despite their liberal upbringing. When Sarah marries, she moves with husband Henry to Australia, while artist Harriet stays in England with their father.

Following James’s death, Harriet journeys to Australia to join Sarah, but the sisters struggle to find their place in this strange, alien land, where many of the values and mores they previously adhered to seemingly have no place.

A sweeping saga, covering a range of weighty issues, from suffrage to racism, The Philosopher’s Daughter is an engrossing read. Through Harriet and Sarah’s eyes, we witness the minutiae of everyday life on a remote cattle station and see the discrimination and brutality suffered by the Aboriginal people first-hand.

Booth successfully evokes the savage beauty of the landscape, particularly that of the remote Northern Territory of Southern Australia, where the second half of the novel largely takes place.

This is a well-paced, absorbing book. Highly recommended.


Alison Booth | The Philosopher’s Daughters | 2020 | RedDoor Press | paperback | £8.99

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Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the virtual book tour. Please check out the other reviews on the tour. Many thanks to lovely Anne Cater of Random Things Tours, as always, and to the publisher for sending us a review copy. The above image © The Literary Shed 2020. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved.

See also: ‘Jane Harper’s The Lost Man – the road to nowhere’; ‘Doug Johnstone’s A Dark Matter’;Nora Roberts’ Sanctuary: an Old Familiar’; ‘Marnie Riches’ Backlash’; ‘By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’; ‘Yvonne Battle-Fenton’s Rememembered‘; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘; ‘We should all be feminists‘; ‘The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; ‘Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime’ (book covers we love).

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