by Janson, Julie

A young Darug girl is sent to the Parramatta Native School after white settlers begin to arrive and claim the continent for the British Empire and flees, searching for a safe place in an increasingly unfamiliar world.

Although her father, a Darug tribal leader, may have been acting with laudable intentions when he delivered his daughter, Muraging, to a school where Aboriginal children were taught to read and write, the life she would lead as a girl now named Mary would be anything but one of privilege or, as the title suggests, benevolence. Instead, as an Aboriginal, hers would be a life filled with atrocities. She was demeaned, beaten, robbed, raped, imprisoned, maligned, starved, and hunted. Set in early-nineteenth-century New South Wales during Britain's intensely violent colonization, acclaimed Australian writer Janson's tale follows a quarter-century of Mary's experiences as an adept but reluctant student, early marriage to a tribesman eventually lost to war, servitude and seduction by British church and government officials, and eventual reunion with her tribe. Based on the life of her own great-great-grandmother, Janson's fictional interpretation of this dark period in Australia's history is presented in plain and unadorned prose as she exposes how horrific and harrowing Aboriginal lives were during this time of brutal conquest, attempted cultural obliteration, resistance, and survival. Copyright 2022 Booklist Reviews.

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