English Passengers: A Novel
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In 1857 when Captain Illiam Quillian Kewley and his band of rum smugglers from the Isle of Man have most of their contraband confiscated by British Customs, they are forced to put their ship up for charter. The only takers are two eccentric Englishmen who want to embark for the other side of the globe. The Reverend Geoffrey Wilson believes the Garden of Eden was on the island of Tasmania. His traveling partner, Dr. Thomas Potter, unbeknownst to Wilson, is developing a sinister thesis about the races of men.
Meanwhile, an aboriginal in Tasmania named Peevay recounts his people’s struggles against the invading British, a story that begins in 1824, moves into the present with approach of the English passengers in 1857, and extends into the future in 1870. These characters and many others come together in a storm of voices that vividly bring a past age to life.
more havoc—perhaps at night when the Englishmen were tired—but they wouldn’t be coaxed. Then again the true fact of Manxmen is that deep down they’re purest mood, being the kind that’ll fill out and fall slack like sails in the wind. When all’s going well and their hopes are high there’s no stopping them, but if things once turn sour then the soo will spill clean away, till they’ve lost all believing in themselves. Getting beat by the Englishmen had knocked the boys badly, while having to watch
on loudly describing the meals he had just consumed, even though it must have been evident that I was feeling still delicate. Apart from sickness, the other matter that was much in my thoughts was sleep, or rather my own lack of this essential sustenance. I do believe that, with the exception of a field of battle, there is hardly a place on earth more poorly suited to the gaining of rest than a sailing ship. Every night, just as I was falling into much-needed dreaming, there would be some shout
beef and such, he had to go and put his hands round the top of the doorframe and sort of lean himself in. For a moment I couldn’t tell if he might’ve accidentally fingered that certain piece of cord that hung there. Only when he swung himself back out, looking as sour as before, did I breathe more freely. Then we got to the dining cabin. This might be the finish of us or could save us altogether. You see, I’d given a good deal of thought to this particular spot, thinking there’s nothing better
shackles to show off. Another change was that tobacco was outlawed. In truth this caused more trouble than all the rest, as it drove the Macquarie boys half to madness, so they were always looking out for someone to punish. If you fought back—which I did—this was frowned on by the commander and his redcoats as showing you still unimproved, and so I stayed in canary clothes all the while. That was trouble, as time was passing and I was getting mighty weary of chopping at trees, feeling a lash on
heart, recalling to mind the story of little David and mighty Goliath. I began conducting investigations of my own, journeying even outside Yorkshire, as far as Wales and Cornwall. I studied. I pondered. I studied again. Half-formed thoughts began to crystallize into lines of reason. Vague assumptions took on a clear, fighting form. Finally I felt ready to put pen to paper and attempt my very first pamphlet, which I had printed at my own expense: False questions honestly answered: the new theory