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For the Term of His Natural Life

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  2,276 ratings  ·  130 reviews
The most famous work by the Australian novelist and poet, For the Term of His Natural Life is a powerful tale of an Australian penal settlement, which originally appeared in serial form in a Melbourne paper.
Paperback, 528 pages
Published December 1st 2006 by Dodo Press (first published 1874)
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3.93  · 
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 ·  2,276 ratings  ·  130 reviews

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“We convicts have the advantage over you gentlemen. You are afraid of death; we pray for it. It is the best thing that can happen to us. Die! They were going to hang me once. I wish they had. My God, I wish they had!”

For The Term Of His Natural Life is the best-known novel by Australian author, Marcus Clarke. It was first published in 1874, although it began as a serialised novel titled His Natural Life, published in the Australian Journal. Text Publishing have produced a handsome volume under t
Banafsheh Serov
May 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookgroup
Poignant and tender, Marcus Clarke's novel depicts both the ugliness and resilience of man. Its depiction of the harsh realities during early settlement, has ensured its status as an important Australian classic.

Accused of a crime he did not commit, Richard Devine- an English aristocrat, is sentenced to life imprisonment at the penal colony of Tasmania. Taking on a new identity (to save his mother grief and shame), the now Rufus Dawes sails to Van Diemen's Land on board a convict ship. What he d
This is the first Australian historical fiction dealing with convicts that I’ve read (as far as I can remember anyway) and I was truly looking forward to it. It’s a classic written in the late 19th century so I guess it was contemporary fiction when it was first written.

Basically, the story follows an intrinsically good man who has a run of ‘bad luck’ throughout the book for a period of 20 years of his life. It is amazing just how much ‘bad luck’ a person can have and yet despite the harshness o
Jan 27, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australian
Bizarrely, my mother bought me this book when I was thirteen. It was bizarre because one of her instruments of emotional abuse during my teenage years came from controlling what I could read or watch. But then her obsession was with anything sexual, and this must have seemed like a nice old fashioned historical novel. I read it when I was sick and feverish and I can still remember the nightmares. I've been wanting to reread this book for a long time, but even twenty years on I dread starting.
Christopher Rex
Mar 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: must-reads
This book was incredible. Fans of "The Count of Monte Cristo" and "Crime and Punishment" take note. Any fan of the "prison novel" or "prison movie" will likely enjoy this book immensely. The lead jailer - Maurice Frere - could easily have been the inspiration for the sadistic wardens of "Shawshank Redemption" and "Cool Hand Luke" respectively.

Brief summary: The book surrounds the 19thC Penal Colony of Australia and the various "island prisons" that were set up there. The inhumanity of that expe
Thom Swennes
Feb 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Warning! This book is not for the faint hearted. Marcus Clarke wrote a story that would rightfully take the same place in Australian and British history as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin took in that of the United States. Most people (especially history buffs) know that Australia was originally used as a penal colony and a great majority of the original European inhabitants were convicts. In Britain deportation was deemed more humane and every much as definite and hanging at Tyburn. A ...more
It was good fun reading this Aussie Classic with a bunch of mostly American readers in the Yahoo 19th century reading group. As I was leading the discussion, I had to start by clearing up some assumptions about this strange land of ours downunder. People overseas usually think of Australia as blue skies and sunshine, but for the purposes of this book, the hot and arid landscapes of Australia are irrelevant. Our smallest and most southerly island state is nothing like that. On the contrary, it’s ...more
Bryn Hammond
Glad to see other reviewers mention The Count of Monte Cristo. I felt strong influence from that, and from Les Mis -- no worse for it, but rather an argument for unabashed influence. It was also an argument for pulp fiction, because it puts its pulp to great uses. A cracking read (I pinched that adjective from another review, but it's exactly right).

This Penguin edition entitles itself just His Natural Life, which restores an original irony. It has a confused publishing history, but this, edite
Shanelle Kennedy
Every chapter made me cry.. It's going to take me a year to get over this terrible and beautiful story
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
Sadly, I must report that I found this Australian classic tedious and melodramatic and as such, a major disappointment.
Mar 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Review to come at Vintage Novels. :)
So apparently I never reviewed this last year? Whoops.

This book is basically the story of a guy who finds out something scandalous about his family, is then falsely accused of murder, convicted, and sent to the colonies. He spends the next millionty years of his life being falsely accused of more crimes and being punished accordingly. Basically, he's Jean Valjean minus the singing and the bread.

The first part of this story was completely action packed and I loved it. The second part featured a
This is a classic? How? How can this be considered a classic?

First of all. It's boooooooooooring. No, it's not because of the style of writing common back then, because I happen to usually really enjoy books written in the 19th century. Seriously, Dickens rules, and while I know one can't go around comparing everyone to Dickens because it will never end well for the other author, I do expect them to be able to write at least some dialogue that doesn't make me cringe and I certainly expect them t
Nov 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels
I read this cause it’s an Australian classic but it was painful for me to read. Very Victorian—like Dickens without the humor. Still, a vivid picture of convict life that I’m sure some people needed to see at the time it was written.
Jun 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Estelle Borrey
May 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
I find this book very powerful and compelling, with well drawn characters and memorable scenes. I have to say that it is the first book, which, in my experience, has made me physically sick, with its account of the inhumane flogging meted out to poor Kirkland. It is one of those books that have the power to really make you pass through wonderful and terrible emotions, and question what makes a human, weak, strong wonderful. It questions social distinctions, and had me cheering for the underdog. ...more
Perseus Q
Jan 04, 2016 rated it liked it
Should one suffer the gravest of injustices based solely on a coincidence, and it results in one unfairly punished and imprisoned for life, there's a novel in it. Rufus Dawes suffers eight of them... Which is just stupid, and as each coincidental injustice occurred I groaned. Just the first would have done. It's a shame because the book was an exciting adventure yarn, and Clarke did not need to keep adding in all these injustices to make the book exciting... These narrative twists actually took ...more
Mar 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Powerful book about early convict life in Australia. I am not Australian, but am married to one, and read this book to understand my other home. Certainly one of the great convict novels, and quite possibly the first great Australian novel, which was a bombshell when first published. Suffice it to say that this was gripping, compelling reading from start to finish. I will long remember Rufus Dawes and his struggles. Most highly recommended.
Ruth Gilbert
Apr 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Okay I can see that it's a classic. But boy is it grim. And the ending, Lordy. Plus there's not much of a narrative drive. But if you want to know how to make a boat using branches and goat skin, it's a great read.
Jul 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Brutal and at times harrowing, this book provides a raw and realistic account of convict life in Colonial Australia.
Apr 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful book! Such excellent writing. Loved reading it.
Sep 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Disturbing. Beautifully written. Definitely a classic.
When you read this you realise why your family is so screwy.

An historical fiction of one of the world's greatest sociological experiments: the prison colonies known as Australia.
What do you say about a novel that is considered a nascent classic of your nation's literature? It's been a movie and a TV mini-series (most probably a radio drama before that)... what else can I say, but it's great.

But... it was not till the last quarter of the 500+ page novel, that I realised I was reading greatness. My initial thoughts were: this is clunky - very old (true, the novel was published in 1874); there's too much repetition, could do with better editing; very melodramatic - very he
Herman Gigglethorpe
For the Term of His Natural Life may not normally be classified as a sensation novel, but I'd call it one. It begins like a soap opera with the main character being disinherited by his wealthy father, and features many coincidences and plot twists that you'd expect from the genre.

Unfortunately, it seems a much better author wrote the prologue and gave up after that. Clarke's style can make anything boring, even the abuses common in "transportation" and penal colonies. There's so much repetition,
One of the most gut-wrenching novels I have ever encountered in my life. Four hundred and fifty pages of, in the end, essentially pointless suffering. Themes of redemption, salvation, and Christianity fall flat in the face of the very real human consequences, both corporeal and mental, of the evils of human nature, as well as the staggeringly haunting structures that it has the ability to construct. Prison system and colonialism, in this novel, is merely the outcome of human pettiness (jealousy, ...more
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was great and far exceeded my expectations. I have been disappointed in the past with reading a "classic" from a different era but not this time. It succeeded on a number of levels. I enjoyed the rich vocabulary and some of the different turn of phrases from 100 years ago. The story was tremendous and kept me enthralled though at times I did hear myself saying "really..." when it occasionally lapsed into a 'Boys Own Adventure' style. There were a lot of messages though about crime and ...more
Dec 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Despite its length, the story kept me engaged right to the end. The cruelties of the British penal colony system in Tasmania (Van Damien's Land) are recounted from the perspectives of the various players: sailors on the transport ships, guards, administrators, chaplains, civilian by-standers, and of course, the convicts. The mystery of how all of the characters are related is elegantly played out, with some unexpected twists. The reader should come prepared to make small adjustments in one's rea ...more
Marcus Clarke's For the Term of His Natural Life is one of the earliest and most famous Australian novels. Predominately set in some of the most notorious of Australia's convict settlements, including Port Macquarie, Port Arthur and Sarah Island, the novel delivers an implicit criticism of the penal system. Topical in its original context, it serves as a reminder to readers today.

The story revolves around Rufus Dawes, who must be one of the unluckiest characters ever. It really beggars belief, h
There were things I loved about this book and things I hated. In a way the book was disjointed in the way it was written. It was also obvious that the author had found out information about this period in history and deliberately tried to put that information into the novel. The novel was way too long and the way that things kept going wrong for Rufus Dawes were irritating- how much bad luck can one person have? But that aside, there is a traditional classical tale here that is worth telling.
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Around the Year i...: For the Term of His Natural Life, by Marcus Clarke 1 21 Jan 07, 2016 10:58AM  

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Marcus Andrew Hislop Clarke, known as Marcus Clarke, was born in Kensington, London. His mother died when he was just a small child and he was raised by his father, a lawyer.
Marcus Clarke moved to Victoria, Australia, where he had an uncle in the provincial town of Ararat, and landed in Melbourne in June 1863. In 1869 Clarke married the actress Marian Dunn and shortly afterwards they started to ra
“Take care what you say! I'll have no hard words. Wretch! If I am a wretch, who made me one? If I hate you and myself and the world, who made me hate it? I was born free - as free as you are. Why should I be sent to herd with beasts, and condemned to this slavery, worse than death? Tell me that, Maurice Frere - tell me that!” 4 likes
“Simt că port în mine două inimi, e ca și cum aș trăi o a doua viață — cea din vis.” 2 likes
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