In the opening pages of Keira Lindsey's fictionalised history, The Convict's Daughter, a young 'currency lass' named Mary Ann Gill makes her precarious way to the third-floor ledge of her family's hotel in central Sydney, readying herself for the descent. 'Clutching hard to the wooden frame, the fifteen-year-old girl hoists herself up, knees first', all too ignorant of the turmoil and scandal which her bold action will precipitate. This is the moment of truth in the so-called 'Parramatta Romance' between Mary Ann, the daughter of Martin and Margaret Gill – once convicts and by 1848 owners of a successful hotel in what is now Martin Place – and James Butler Kinchela, a 'sterling settler' and son of the former New South Wales attorney-general. Their bungled elopement becomes a matter for the courts when the outraged and trigger-happy Martin attacks his daughter's paramour.
Sophia Barnes reviews 'The Convict's Daughter' by Keira Lindsey
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Sophia Barnes is a freelance writer, manuscript editor, and academic. She is currently teaching literature at the University of Sydney.
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