Review Blog

Jun 02 2014

To see the world by Elaine Forrestal

cover image

National Library of Australia, 2014. ISBN: 9780642278494.
(Age: 12+) Recommended. To see and understand History it is sometimes valuable to step inside the shoes of those who travelled the world in the past, and to do it through enjoyable fiction. Elaine Forrestal has told the story of the feisty Rose de Freycinet who travelled on board her husband's French sailing vessel, the Uranie, on the 1817-20 journey of discovery and scientific investigation, which included a visit to Australia. Rose was an unauthorised passenger on this French Naval journey, and her story has an unlikely observer and narrator in To See the World - the son of a Mauritian mother and French Government employee. The young boy, Jose, appears in portraits from the time, being taught by Rose de Freycinet. The journey includes the details of the drama of this sailing journey, which includes storms, illness and death, and shipwreck as well as the normal day-to-day life of a sailing ship.
The delight of this book is that we get a wonderful glimpse of the world in Australia's youth, when Sydney was still a very small settlement, and when a voyage to Australia was long and arduous. The individuals that sailed on board this voyage are presented as remarkable and were willing to set aside their own comforts in the pursuit of knowledge of the world. Forrestal makes the journey of discovery for us as readers a pleasant experience too. This book is a great entry point for a discovery of our own history. It is obvious that the narrative is based on Primary evidence from The National Library's Collection and uses a transcript of Rose De Freycinet's own journal as a source for the detail of the journey. This in itself gives an insight for students in the value of Primary sources to help us get an understanding of History.
I can recommend this book for Students 12+, although younger capable students would also enjoy the book. In many respects those who have enjoyed the historical retellings of Jackie French - Tom Appleby: Convict Boy , Roseanne Hawke - Taj and the Great Camel Trek, Rosemary Hayes - The Blue-eyed Aborigine, Anthony Hill - Captain Cook's Apprentice, would also enjoy this insight into our history, and particularly the involvement of the French. (My only distress is that I do not know any French, because there are a number of untranslated phrases included in the book. With a translator App, or Google Translate at hand this presents no problems for the digital native.)
Carolyn Hull

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