Inspired by the Books Are Essential movement, I shall sporadically post Interesting & Inspirational Books Of Any Era.

Here’s an excellent novel set in Australia’s early convict past:

THE PLAYMAKER by Thomas Keneally

The first play staged in Australia was a sitcom, The Recruiting Officer, in 1789, with an all-convict cast and a First Fleet marine, Ralph Clark, directing. Keneally brings this bizarre colonial footnote to life in a bewitching blend of fact and plausible imaginings. Clark is sensitively handled, and his relationship with convict-actress Mary Brenham proves quite touching. IMG_E3067

Satisfying splashes of myth and magic often involve the kidnapped Eora man Arabanoo and Cornish ‘witch’ Mary Bryant (later a famous runaway).

Keneally is naturally fond of the colony’s writers such as David Collins and Watkin Tench, to whom we owe much of what we know about those times.

But his synthesis of the play’s content and progress with contemporary colonial doings – such as Arabanoo’s bond with Governor Phillip, marines hanged for theft and a London underworld transplanted intact – is The Playmaker‘s greatest triumph.