By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
Nanberry: Black Brother White
By Jackie French (Angus & Robertson, $16.99, softcover, 309 pages)
Imaginations will soar with this moving, historical fiction inspired by the early days of European settlement in Australia.
It’s 1789, a new colony in Sydney Cove is established and an Aboriginal boy named Nanberry is adopted by the community’s first surgeon, John White. Nanberry (aged 8 or 9 years) has survived a smallpox outbreak that claimed his family and is nursed back to health by White who takes him under his wing to live with his convict maid Maria.
The young boy, who impresses with his intelligence and ability to swifly grasp English, gets caught between two worlds – that of his Eora tribe and new ‘family’.
Nanberry is seen through the eyes of White, the two women who work for him and the boy who uses his unique gifts wisely.
Follow the story of brothers Andrew and Nanberry as they make their way in the world – one as a sailor serving in the Royal Navy, the other a hero of the Battle of Waterloo.
What makes this a wonderful story is its basis in truth. It sets a definitive tone for the characters, their development, the astounding imagery and the depth of human emotions.
The award-winning author completely immerses herself in another time as she generates realistic conversations and images. What follows is a moving narrative, wonderfully woven to incorporate compartments of factual events – the ‘smallpox’ plague that killed only Aboriginal people but spared the white settlers and the almost-murder of Governor Phillip – with summarised dialogues and relationships.
French makes notes on her cast of characters, together with other fascinating information, and is a testament to the book being “an extraordinary patchwork that just grew and grew”.
French’s passion for Australia’s history is self-evident.
Nanberry delivers a commanding story of survival against the odds, enduring love, sacrifice and family.
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.