Review Blog

May 27 2009

Martha's journey by Tracey Hawkins

cover image

New Frontier Publishing, 2009
ISBN 9781921042140
(Age 12+) Here is the story of Martha's voyage from the Liverpool Docks to Australia in 1880.  She is the middle child of William Winstanley, a stern and methodical man, a disciplinarian upholding traditional values.  His family struggles for a living but their simple life is a happy one. One day a parcel arrives from Auntie Edie in Australia. Along with a tightly rolled wad of money, a letter especially requests that Martha, a favourite niece, be sent abroad to begin a new life as a 'daughter' to her aunt and uncle. A decision not easily made means that Martha is tormented with fear, confusion and hurt.  The journey will be long and difficult, and what will await her in a new and strange country?  The author has devoted this book to her forbears and the story is of her great-great-grandmother's sea voyage.  Martha keeps a journal and discovers the hardship and cruelty of life aboard ship, but she also discovers the true value of friendship and what amazing sights are to be seen at sea - 'imagine mountains that soar out the sea in the middle of the ocean. Dolphins swimming alongside the ship, the stormy sea, angry bolts of lightning that light the entire night sky.'
Finely detailed and centring on a piece of family history, Hawkins' language is heavy handed in description and generally lacking in imaginative quality, but the historical perspective is interesting.
Julie Wells

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