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Escape From Injustice: Wrongly accused of murder in 1850s England, a young man escapes and meets his love on a ship under sail for Australia at the time of the great gold rush. (English Edition) eBook Kindle
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The story is preceded by a quote from Joseph Campbell: “We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us” followed by a prologue describing an incident that occurred in 1850’s Ballarat, Southern Australia. Combined they provide the basic theme and setting for this book of the early developing country. The protagonist is John Lille, a 17-year-old college student with plans to graduate the following year, read law at Cambridge and join his barrister father’s practice in London. Unfortunately, he has an altercation with a classmate on a walk into town and although he only defended himself when attacked by his companion, the boy falls striking his head on a tree root and dies. Faced with imprisonment and probable hanging resultant from accusation by the boy’s vengeful father who threatens to produce a witness to outright murder, he flees with help from his father. Aboard ship to Australia, he makes friends with his barrister roommate and a very lovely young girl travelling with her mother from Ireland. He also learns to respect the reciprocal honor and trust that develops among the uneducated seamen who so constantly share recurring dangers. The relationship between John and Bernadette secretly blossoms and the two enter a partnership upon arriving in Melbourne. With help from his barrister friend he finds employment that leads to land speculation with his partner Bernadette, advances to a search for gold with additional partners who were members of the ship’s crew who had decided to take a run at prospecting. Now physically involved as well as partners with Bernadette, his life begins to take many turns that propel him and his friends through many adventures.
The author has set forth a tale that provides fascinating accounts of the scrambles for land acquisition in the newly developing country, the details of various steps in mining, the development of friction between the miners and the governing body and even interesting details of the differences between Catholicism and the Anglican Church and the demand for strict adherence required at that early time. It also is replete with constant setbacks for John along with the repetitive appearance of factors that might expose him as an escaped prisoner.
In summary, the author has presented an appealing tale in a well-written fashion with believable characters moving forward at a pleasant pace and has done so in a manner of writing that somehow, at least for this reader, recalls writers of an earlier age – a charming touch.
Warne’s writing has a flavor so appropriate to the subject matter of his books. He allows us entry in this new book ESCAPE FROM INJUSTICE in his brief Prologue – ‘Circa 1850. Ballarat, in the aboriginal language, Balla - arat, resting place, southern Australia: On an isolated wintery farm, a shepherd checking his sheep after a severe rain storm finds a glittering gold nugget in the tangled earth and roots of a fallen tree. His secret is soon discovered and sailing ships returning with wool and wheat to the west carry news of Gold around the world. 1851. The English Midlands. John Lille, 17, attends a respectable ancient college in dense woodland not far from a little village. His next year will be his final. He plans to read law at Cambridge, and then to join his barrister father’s legal practice in London. His plan is interrupted.’ And in this simple fashion Warne carves the platform for this engrossing story of a man wrongly accused of murder in England who escapes on a ship bound for Australia in response to the Gold Rush.
The flavor of Warne prose is intoxicating – ‘Ravens, clinging to their winter tracery, hunched to the wind against a wild scudding sky, tensed in alarm as boots thudded beneath them. John Lille, tiring and out of breath, running desperately for the walled gateway, was unable to make his voice heard in driving rain as he called for help. Joseph Varney, black robed and middle aged, monotonously quoting Latin tenses, looked up, annoyed at the sound of pounding boots in the corridor, and then Lille burst into his classroom. “Sir! Michael Townley is hurt! He is lying unconscious in the forest! “Unconscious you say, Lille? The balding lecturer at first froze in concern then started to his feet, he beckoned two youths in the class to come and peered quizzically at the agitated Lille. “He is by the road sir, near the stream, half way to the village!” Lille, out of breath, tried to keep his voice low and deep. With his heart still pounding he prepared to run again. Would Townley still be there? He felt his skin dilate ready to flush, Townley could have regained consciousness and not be there; would he bring Varney and the others out for nothing? But what if Townley is lying there still on the wet ground?’
The provided synopsis captures the plot well – ‘The story is of John Lille’s journey from youth to manhood after the catastrophic loss of his privileged life at an 1850s college in England when he is falsely accused of murdering a classmate. With a trial at the Old Bailey in London imminent, a witness willing to testify against him, and the inevitability of fetid Newgate prison and a grisly hanging, his barrister father formulates an escape plan which lands him on a sailing ship bound for Australia at the time of the great gold rush. The Lady Beverley, a four masted clipper ship fresh from the China tea trade loads a cargo of supplies for the miners, and the voyage of many months isolates him with a small group of passengers and the ship’s crew. He entranced by Bernadette, a beautiful Irish girl who is traveling with her protective mother, and he learns to respect the fundamental honour and the unbreakable bond of mateship between illiterate and uneducated men. His tentative approaches with Bernadette gradually build to a secretive shipboard romance which becomes physical after they land in the burgeoning frontier town of Melbourne. Wagons loaded with gold from the diggings escorted by red coated soldiers roll through the streets, and crowds make way for coaches drawn by galloping horses carrying carousing miners and women dressed in extravagant silks. John and Bernadette become partners with four shipmate friends in a gold mine on the diggings. The story continues through life on the diggings, differing religion, rebellion, injury, cave-ins, death, pregnancy, affluence, bankruptcy, and eventually, marriage, as the flourishing town grows toward a fine provincial city. Through it all John is worried by occasional glimpses of a menacing stranger.’
An epic adventure, well told by a master storyteller. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, November 17