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3.66  ·  Rating Details  ·  267 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
Keneally's magnificent story of a young officer in a penal colony during the founding days of Australia transports readers through layer after layer of life in Sydney Cove, Australia. Advertising in New York Review of Books and Village Voice Literary Supplement.
Paperback, 352 pages
Published October 1st 1993 by Touchstone (first published 1987)
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Dec 26, 2014 Lulu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book! Why? Because I love Australian history and this book is a fictional account based on historical fact and I believe it was particularly well written and interesting because the historical record it was primarily based upon was Lt Clarke's personal journal which he wasn't planning to publish so it contains all that great personal opinion and life record which is otherwise impossible to glean from the formal records. And consequently it makes the story and these historical figure ...more
Richard Wright
Feb 04, 2014 Richard Wright rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
Timberlake Wertenbaker's 'Our Country's Good is among my favourite plays, and as this is the book on which it's based I came to it with high expectations. Some were met, while others were not. The depiction of Australia as a foreign world is beautiful, and makes a fine backdrop to the story of Lieutenant Ralph Clark rallying a bunch of prisoners to rehearse and perform a play for the King's birthday. If anything however, it's slightly underused. With Ralph as the point of view character, the wor ...more
Apr 15, 2015 Tim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For a story about a playmaker, there's relatively little in this novel about the play itself. Instead it meanders through the lives and events of the characters of Australia's first colony. Some of these lives are interesting, some not. When the story grips, it grips like Ketch's noose, but for large parts it languishes like a prison hulk caught in the doldrums.
Sep 16, 2014 Aubrey rated it liked it
Well. Not exactly the kind of thing that I'm interested in. I will admit that it was a joy watching the play come together in the midst of the wild outback situation filled with criminal lags and wild natives. As well as watch Ralph figure out his situation and his feelings during the course of putting together of the performance. I learned a great deal about the initial stages of Britain sending its criminals to Australia, the difficulties entailed as well as how the great physical and temporal ...more
May 11, 2016 Liz rated it liked it
Shelves: ozstralian-books
Apparently this book is based on an actual journal that recorded the actual events of the time. It's a very interesting real life insight into what life was like for the first few poor souls who were flung to the other side of the moon. If you are interested in Australian colonial history, definitely give it a read. Australia needs more of these books and it should be on the school curriculum.
Jennifer (JC-S)
Feb 10, 2010 Jennifer (JC-S) rated it it was amazing
‘Stealing time seems a heavy crime with the judges.’

In 1788, the First Fleet landed in Botany Bay to establish a penal colony. In 1789, Lieutenant Ralph Clark is commissioned by H.E. (unnamed in the novel but historically Governor Arthur Phillip) to stage a play in honour of the King’s birthday. George Farquhar’s comedy ‘The Recruiting Officer’ (first performed in 1706) is the play: the fact that the colony possessed only two copies of the script was the least of the handicaps to be overcome. Li
Aug 02, 2014 Pippin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I read it as part of background knowledge for my theatre class, but I just couldn't get into it. Whether it was the language I just couldn't get my head around or the many characters within, I found it difficult to connect with the book. Never finished.
Mar 03, 2009 Djrmel rated it really liked it
-Written by the man who brought us "Schindler's List", this is slightly lighter fare. The book takes place in very early colonial Australia, as fascinating place as I've ever read about. One of the men in charge of the prison colony has been given the unlikely (but true) order to stage Anton Checkhov's "The Seagull", using prisoners as his actors. Every single character in this story is worthy of having a book to themselves. (You don't have to be familiar with "The Seagull" to enjoy this work, a ...more
Jun 24, 2009 Rebecca rated it did not like it
I have never once, in my life, stopped reading a book before the end... until this one. I just couldn't force myself to get through it. I should have loved it as I am a theatre student who is also interested in history. However, I couldn't follow the timeline, couldn't tell the characters apart, and couldn't understand what they were talking about or what it had to do with anything half of the time. Maybe someday I'll try again. But not today.
Jan 30, 2008 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
The Playmaker is a stunning historical fiction about British prisoners shipped off to live in the newly colonized Australia. Keneally, who also wrote Schindler's List, provides rich characterizations of the British military and their captives while extending compassion to all who find themselves incarcerated in their new world.
Apr 04, 2008 Kristin rated it it was amazing
There isn't one specific thing I can pinpoint that would explain why this is a five-star book. I just couldn't put it down, and it has been haunting me; that has to mean something. It was understated, yet profound. The best piece of historical fiction I've ever read.
Jan 13, 2008 Jyv rated it did not like it
Shelves: notfinished
Perhaps I just wasn't in the mood for this book. I just couldn't get into it after the first two chapters. I did try but found that I wasn't picking the book up after putting it down. It's probably a wonderful book, but just not for me.
Jul 17, 2012 David rated it really liked it
Set in the first year or so of settlement in NSW. A young army officer is given the job of putting on a play to raise morale - but he has to do it using only convicts. A story based on a true story. I enjoyed it very much.
Aug 14, 2010 Amy rated it liked it
I couldn't get into this book as much as I would have liked, but I ultimately powered through and found it to be a good read.

It's about the criminal colony of Australia.
Nov 27, 2007 Jill rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all
Drawn from the beginnings of the English Australian colonies, this is the novel upon which Timberlake Wertenbaker based her play, "Our Country's Good"-yep I want to direct it.
Neal Dench
Sep 16, 2009 Neal Dench rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This story of a travelling troupe of actors in colonial Australia sounded very interesting, but just didn't float my boat. Others may find it fine though.
Dec 03, 2012 Melanie marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I registered a book at!
Jul 31, 2007 Emma rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating tale about the origins of Australia as a penal colony of Great Britain.
May 19, 2012 Jodi rated it really liked it
loved his use of language. He kept me reaching for the dictionary throughout.
Sarah Harkness
Jan 01, 2013 Sarah Harkness rated it liked it
Well, not as good as the play!
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Thomas Michael Keneally, AO (born 7 October 1935) is an Australian novelist, playwright and author of non-fiction. He is best known for writing Schindler's Ark, the Booker Prize-winning novel of 1982, which was inspired by the efforts of Poldek Pfefferberg, a Holocaust survivor. The book would later be adapted to Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List (1993), which won the Academy Award for Best Pict ...more
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“We humbly beg your kind applause,” murmured Mary Brenham, with a creative frown that reminded Ralph of Betsey Alicia and made him sharply aware there was nothing that moved him like a cloud of intellection on a desired face.” 2 likes
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