No hearts of gold by Jackie French

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We are introduced to Kat Fitzhubert “Some girls were not born to be good” p.12, Titania Boot “some girls were born to be useful” p.28 and Lady Viola Montefiore “some girls were born to be loved” p.26, who board the Salamanca in March 1849 bound for Sydney. During the long voyage they develop a strong friendship which endures after they land in Sydney, Kat to an arranged marriage with Zebediah Markham, Titania to start her own business and Viola to a life of luxury with her guardian Major Nash until coming of age in four years’ time. Suprisingly Kat settles in to her new life with a good and loving farmer husband and Titania finds no barriers to setting up a successful business supplying the many ships passing through Sydney Harbour. Viola wants for nothing but is bored with Sydney society and a bit aimless, her main pleasure, maintaining her friendship with the others. It is a turbulent time in Australia with extremes of drought and flood, bushrangers and gold fever and the three support each other through hard times and good. Each chapter is from one of the character’s point of view as Viola’s coming of age approaches. One of the more interesting characters is Titania’s neighbour who works as a prostitute. Overall I didn’t bond with the women and the story became overly complicated and morally confused.

Lovers of Jackie French’s women’s fiction and Australian historical novels will find this a good read.

Themes: Colonial Sydney, Friendship, Goldrush.

Sue Speck