The Floating Brothel, Sian Rees, Book Review

The Floating Brothel

The Floating Brothel: The Extraordinary True Story of an Eighteenth-Century Ship and Its Cargo of Female Convicts

This true historical story details, for the first time, the story of the female convicts of the Lady Julian, which set sail from England in 1789 and arrived in the Sydney Cove colony a year later. It is a lively, vivid romp of a read, expanding upon the stories of these women’s journeys in a way much more commonly seen in historical fiction.

Whilst the relegation of the female convicts to objects to be bought and sold is grating, this book provides another fascinating insight into the early history of the colony and its women. It didn’t evoke the same level of raw emotion as The Secret River, but it’s still definitely worth a read.

For a fictional book review on convict Australia, check out The Secret River

The author cleverly weaves court documents, firsthand accounts and imaginative storytelling to bring to life the inhospitable and debauched world of 18th century London and the realities and experiences of women aboard a convict transport on their way to an unknown colony. I was baffled when I discovered that these female convicts, most of them convicted of petty, minor crimes, were being shipped to New South Wales to provide company to the lonely male convicts of the colony. It’s bizarre to think that  Governor Arthur Philips, leader of the colony, had written home to request a shipment of women for the sexual comfort of the male convicts. As the Governor had previously ruled sodomy punishable by being stranded and left to the mercy of the fearsome Maori tribes on nearby New Zealand, he felt that shipping women over was his only option. Well, either that or abducting women from the nearby Pacific Islands.

For a non-fiction book review on more empowered women check out How Women Rise

Author: Sian Rees
Rating: 4/5

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