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Buy For The Term Of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke from Australia's Online Independent Bookstore, Boomerang Books.
Book DetailsISBN: 9781925355659
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Book Review: For The Term Of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke - Reviewed by CloggieA (23 Jul 2016)
“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 their Text Classics banner.
There are significant differences in the plot between the original (unabridged) edition and later editions of this novel; the first book has been reduced to a prologue; the text has been condensed into a much more readable form, and much of the (frankly, boring and often unimportant) detail has been omitted; and the ending is completely different. Thus, for example, in excess of 150 pages of book 2 of the original edition are reduced to a much more manageable 75 pages in this edition.
Clarke managed to pack a lot into his novel: perhaps as it began in serialised form, each episode needed some drama: a parental estrangement, a very rich will, a secret identity, a wrongful conviction, transport on a convict ship, a mutiny, another wrongful conviction, flogging, suicide attempts, multiple escape attempts (at least one involving cannibalism), another mutiny, abandonment on a deserted shore, the construction of a coracle, yet another wrongful conviction, many years of penal servitude, the claiming of an inheritance by an imposter, quite a few confessions and a shipwreck.
This novel has been described as the Australian Count of Monte Cristo and while it is considered an Australian Classic, as historical fiction, it is not really up to the standard of Dumas’s writing. The most exciting chapters, by far, are those detailing the escape from Port of Arthur of convict, John Rex. It is filled with improbable coincidences, and while he draws on many real occurrences in Tasmania’s history, Clarke’s emphasis is on the cruelty of convict life. Rufus Dawes is one very unlucky man!
This book will appeal to those who enjoy Australian historical fiction written from the closer perspective of fifty years as opposed to almost one hundred and fifty. A map of the relevant parts would have been helpful, but Wikipedia serves equally, these days. Text Classics include an introduction by author, Rohan Wilson and an evocative cover by the talented WH Chong. A beautiful edition of an Aussie Classic. 3 stars
Marcus Clarke was born in 1846 in Kensington, London. At age seventeen Clarke left England for Australia, where his uncle was a county court judge. Despite an early career in banking, Clarke had begun to write professionally by 1867, penning stories for the Australian Magazine and working as a theatre critic for the Melbourne Argus. Commissioned by the Australian Journal to write a serial about convict life, Clarke produced his masterwork, His Natural Life. Republished as a novel in 1874 under the new title For the Term of His Natural Life, Clarke's epic tale of crime and punishment was later distributed in Britain, America, Germany and many other countries.Marcus Clarke died in Melbourne in 1881, aged thirty-five.
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