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1849. At sixteen, Harriet Cooper has only one person keeping her from ruin, her older sister, Mary. Their father, Sir Charles, is obsessed with his youngest child and because their mother is dead it is Mary who keeps watch over Harriet's bedroom door. But when Mary dies in London's cholera epidemic, Harriet becomes a prisoner in her own home, her father would rather she acted as his wife than his daughter and she can see nothing but horror before her. It seems impossible, but her only escape route is to flee after her cousin Edward who has recently emigrated to the new colony of New Zealand. Sheltered as her life has been, Harriet discovers untapped reserves of bravery and courage and manages to get herself on a boat bound for Wellington. But as soon as her father realises what she has done, he chases her across oceans and uncharted waters to the other side of the world, where thousands have gone seeking a new life and where Harriet thought he would never find her...

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780751533903
ISBN-10: 0751533904
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 127mm x 24mm)
Pages: 416
Imprint: Sphere
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 10-Jul-2003
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


UK Kirkus Review » It's 1849, and 17-year-old Harriet is the youngest daughter of Sir Charles Cooper MP and a staunch feminist. Unsurprisingly, her father does not share her views, and criticizes her for reading when she should be practising domestic arts. When a cholera epidemic strikes London, he sends her to stay with her cousins in the country, where she becomes aware of the enthusiasm for emigration sweeping the country, including that of her cousin Edward, who has bought land in New Zealand. Faced with a personal tragedy, Harriet decides to set out on her own for New Zealand, knowing her father would never let her go. This is a long and detailed but extremely readable novel. Barbara Ewing's research is exceptionally meticulous and thorough. The reader learns a considerable amount about both London and New Zealand but the facts are blended unobtrusively into a story full of well-realized, interesting and believable characters. Harriet herself, the rebellious daughter of a domineering father, might be something of a stereotype but Ewing presents her as both strong and fallible; her reactions to her predicament are often moving. Similarly, Sir Charles is not the villain of Victorian melodrama that he might have been. Possibly using the cholera epidemic as a metaphor for a society in decline, Ewing explores the first signs of changes in the English class structure which were beginning to appear even in early Victorian England and shows how friendships across classes were to become possible in new territories such as New Zealand, which was also an arena for the development of women's rights. It is an appropriate destination for an emancipated woman like Harriet because, as Ewing points out in her brief epilogue, New Zealand was the first country in the world to give women the vote. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » A lush account by British novelist and actress Ewing (a memoir: Strangers, 1978) of a young Victorian lady who crosses the globe alone to make a new life for herself in New Zealand. Harriet Cooper's mother died in childbirth, and she was raised in London largely by her older sister Mary. Intelligent and well read, Mary has inherited very progressive notions regarding the equality of the sexes from her mother and passes them in turn to Harriet. She also protects her younger sister from the perverted desires of their father, Sir Charles Cooper, MP, and secretly sets aside a portion of their mother's inheritance to provide for Harriet in the event of her own death. A lucky thing, too, for when Mary dies of cholera in 1849 (about a third of the way through the story), Harriet is soon subjected to nightly degradations at the hands of Sir Charles, whose idea of fun is doping her with laudanum and feeling her up between the sheets. Her cousin Edward emigrated to New Zealand some months before Mary's death, and Harriet now longs to follow him there. But how can she travel all the way to the antipodes by herself, in an age when decent women can't go shopping without a chaperone? Fortunately for Harriet, she has her sister's inheritance and her own independence of mind at her disposal. But she also has to deal with the attentions of Lord Ralph Kingdom, a young nobleman who has fallen in love with her. Learning of Harriet's plans at the last minute, Ralph tries to stop her at the dock and, when that fails, eventually follows her to New Zealand and proposes marriage. Harriet has the pioneer spirit, all right, but she is a true Victorian as well. Can she turn her back on England forever? Fast-paced and surprisingly free of heavy breathing: an excellent historical novel enlivened with a dash of romance. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Barbara Ewing

Barbara Ewing was born & brought up in New Zealand but now lives in London where she combines her dual careers of acting & writing.

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