'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 25 May 2020

Review: The Schoolmaster's Daughter

January 1901 heralds a time of change for the nation and an equally great one for the schoolmaster’s daughter, Hannah Gilbert. She dreams of a life of learning at University. Not as servant to a man that will govern her life.

The ship bringing the family to a new post at Port Harris, is stranded on a sandbank. They are rescued by Jamie, a Pacific Islander. This will lead Hannah into a forbidden friendship when two similar minds are bound together.

Mama - Mrs Gilbert, is a woman of considerable family fortune. Something her husband can’t touch. The scar on her face has done nothing to lessen her confidence, independent nature, and the separate and compassionate way she views the world and people. She is respectable, respected, accepting and refuses to discriminate.

She is determined to see Hannah realise her dreams. And  later, intends to extend the same opportunities for development to her young son, Angus.

Mr Gilbert is the new schoolmaster at Port Harris. He is a singular character; highly intelligent, presentable, well-mannered and loving. These virtues don’t influence his dislike of his wife’s opinions and decisions.

His expectations were that she uses her family’s money and influence to secure him a respectable position in a private school. She has refused and refuses to do so. His persistence in this, added to his cruel reference to her scars and his magnanimous sacrifice in marrying her, awakens Mama to the truth of her situation.

Mr Harris is the rich and powerful owner of the area’s sugar plantations serviced by slave labour. The whip still governs, and brutality punishes any disobedience. He is not what he outwardly projects. His smooth and well-mannered exterior harbours a dark side and even darker secrets and activities. These come to light in twists of fate.

The actions, thoughts and emotions of this outstanding cast of characters – major and minor, whose paths cross, are sturdy building blocks in this fantastic read, set in a deeply moving and tragic era of Australia’s history.

Jackie French’s ability to construct a powerful narrative draws us into the era of Federation and change – in Laws and people that altered the  thinking and beliefs of a nation.

Title: The Schoolmaster’s Daughter
Author: Jackie French
Publisher: Harper Collins, $17.99
Publication Date: 18 May 2020
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781460757710
For ages: 12+
Type: Historical Fiction