Really 2.5 stars.
This may be the first work of Australian fiction I have read. And I fully admit that everything I know (before this read, which is historically based) about Australian history comes from Midnight Oil songs and interviews some 20 years ago.
This was a slow book to read. For much of the first half, I was confused, with 3 different stories going on: Mathinna's childhood, the widowed Lady Jane, and Dickens'. Mathinna's was by far the most interesting, though so sad. As the stories begin to merge, it becomes clearer. But, somehow, it never quite came together for me. Dickens was dull, Lady Jane annoying. Dickens, Nelly, Mathinna, Collins, and Lady Jane were all real people, but seem undeveloped to me. Which leads me to wonder--can the fictionalized character of a real person be well developed? Or does that become biography?
My favorite character in the book was Garney Walch, who appears but twice. Yet I felt he was perhaps the best developed. A seemingly rough old man with a kind heart and sad past.