Monday, 4 May 2015

Book Review: Dark Southern Sun by Shaun J. McLaughlin

Dark Southern Sun

"In this sequel to Counter Currents, Ryan washes up on the southern shore of Australia near death in 1845. Rescued by two Wathaurung native children and nursed to health by their parents, his life and theirs are entwined through good and sorrow for the next ten years. Set against the historical backdrop of Australia’s formative years, Ryan witnesses the displacement of the Aboriginal people, and he faces the chaos of the world’s largest alluvial gold rush and the bloodshed of Australia’s only armed uprising. Throughout, two very different women—one white, one black—tug at his heart as he struggles from penury to prosperity. As he rises in social esteem as an astute businessman and cunning streetfighter, Ryan creates two bitter enemies—one white, one black. In time, they set aside their vast racial and emotional hatreds and combine forces. Can Ryan survive their vicious attempt to destroy him and save the good life he has built?"

This may be the first time I've read a historical fiction novel and didn't even bother worrying about the accuracy. McLaughlin has created such a compelling story that nothing else really matters. And believe me, I'm usually extremely picky. I've never read a novel set in Australia, so this was a refreshing change of pace. It's clear through the writing that countless hours of research went into the writing of 'Dark Southern Sun' but not in a way that felt like a textbook. I was instantly transported to 19th century Australia, and now finishing the novel I'm encountering a bit of a culture shock. That's never a bad thing to feel after reading a novel.
The characters are well developed, and I quickly grew to love them. I felt their joys and sorrows, their frustrations and times of contentment. As an author and a reader, there's not much more I can request. I can see some readers not enjoying certain paths or the ending of the novel, but to me it's the most honest ending and it stayed true to the characters and story. 'Dark Southern Sun' is a well-written, and entirely thoughtful novel that depicts the early colonization of Australia. It shows the hardships to both whites and Aboriginals, and how love and the bonds of friendship transcends race and background. Despite it being a sequel, nothing in the novel suggested it and I was actually surprised (and happy) to find out there's a first in the series I can read. We're told a bit about Ryan's past, but it in no way hindered my enjoyment of McLaughlin's work.

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