Beach on a week day
Photo of a Sydney beach by Marion A used under a Creative Commons license.

Robert Hughes, The Fatal Shore (Vintage, 1988).
A history of early Australia. Hughes relates the discovery and early exploration of the continent, the decision to “transport” the unwilling colonists, the social dynamics of the young colony, the sorts of lives that convicts made there, and their relations with and abuse of the aborigines whom they displaced. Much was brutal, including the penal colonies established for recidivists. Hughes tells this tale through to the end of transportation and the start of the gold rush. Hughes, who emigrated from Australia in 1964, was a cultural critic for Time for many years and his writing is a pleasure.

A bio of Hughes can be found on the PBS website for a series about Australia (“Beyond The Fatal Shore”) that he wrote and hosted. You can listen to Don Swaim’s 1987 interview with Hughes. Clive James reviewed the book in The New Yorker). So did
Thomas Keneally and John Gross, both in The New York Times. See also these pieces by
Shriram Krishnamurtri, Brian Smith, Aarti, John Launer (in QJM), and urbanmonk. And here’s something for Jane Austen fans.

Buy it at