A Colony Divided (Australian Historical Saga #3), by David Field

Eight stars

David Field is one writer I’ll not tire of reading, hands down. He’s shown me, through his writing, that there is truly something for everyone amongst his array of novels. Field’s latest tetralogy explores the development of Australia, from penal colony to a settled country struggling to define itself. In this third novel, the focus is on Jack Bradbury, second generation Australian, and his attempts to define himself against the still unable nationhood of his homeland. Interesting enough, it parallels some of the struggles his own father, Matthew, had in the second novel, to step out from under the shadow of his own father. Jack is not interested in the family business, but has a passion for the law, wanting to bring justice to all, particularly the indigenous community. While working under a well-established Sydney lawyer, Jack learns the ins and outs of the trade, only to discover that those indigenous who are left as slaves and to live in small communes are disparaged when it comes to the law and accused of crimes before the evidence can be synthesised. Jack’s eyes are opened on numerous occasions, as well as his heart, in this telling story. Field does a masterful job and portraying the struggle in this, the most engaging novel of the series to date.

Jack Bradbury has grown up in his father’s shadow and expected to take over the family hardware business. However, Jack’s passions lie in law and justice, something he espouses regularly when speaking of the poor treatment of the indigenous community around Sydney. When given the chance to be tutored by one of the city’s esteemed criminal lawyers, Jack takes the chance and learns a great deal. He’s also caught the eye of Gwendoline Hannigan, his tutor’s daughter. She decides at her birthday celebration that they are to be engaged, leaving Jack shocked and betrothed when he cannot dispute it.

While working the case of a falsely accused indigenous man, Jack connects with a friend from his past, a young woman who grew up in the care of the Church when her mother died during childbirth. Lowanna is mixed-race, but also the first girl Jack ever loved, feelings that he cannot entirely hide, even after it has been years since they last saw one another.

When Gwendoline discovers Lowanna is back and appears to be with child, the aristocratic woman young assumes the worst and calls off the engagement, leaving Jack speechless and soon without a job. Forced to reinvent himself, Jack does just that and continues to work helping the indigenous as best he can. During a trip to the courthouse, he finds himself inadvertently chosen to defend Gwendoline’s new beau for conspiracy, something he struggles to do, but knows that justice is blind and he must put on the best case possible.

As he works through the case, something significant occurs and Jack is forced into hiding. It is only worth the help of Lowanna, who owes her people’s legal freedom to Jack’s dedication, that they are able to help the young lawyer return to society. A changed man who sees the error of his ways, Jack knows there is only one thing that he has yet to do to tip the scales of justice and societal correctness in his favour, but will he be able to convince others in the Bradbury clan? David Field does a sensational job in his novel that explores the legal and societal strains under which an awkward Australia must come to terms.

David Field shows a passion for writing on a vast array of subjects, as is demonstrated by his numerous short series. Field entertains readers with his flowing narrative and apt dialogue, while exemplifying a great deal of research on the subject matter. This novel was yet again a contrast to the other two in the series, offering up more social commentary at a time when Australia is trying to define itself, yet still yoked with many of the colonial ways of thinking. Field explores all of this, as well as a young man’s emotional well-being through a story that captivates and engages with each turn of the page. I have come to expect nothing less of David Field!

Jack Bradbury is the central protagonist in this piece, though one cannot discount Lowanna and her presence. While Jack explores the legal and judicial aspects of the country, Lowanna offers a refreshing look at how poorly the indigenous population is treated and how blame is shoved towards them without a second thought. There is a great deal of development for both of these characters, peppered with some backstory to offer context and strengthen their connection towards the latter stages of the book. Field has does a masterful job at portraying the struggles both face, without candy coating any of it. The attentive reader will likely need a moment, as I did, to reflect on what transpires and reflect on the current situation in some parts of the world.

David Field presents ideas in an easy to digest fashion, while adding impactful themes throughout. The narrative flows with ease, using varied characters and sentiments that entertain and engage on every page. Shorter chapters help construct the needed momentum and support numerous plot twists. As with the other novels in the series, there is a strong balance of fictional storytelling alongside historical happenings, which provides needed context at every turn. Field never disappoints and he has done so well with this piece. He continues to impress me and I can see glimpses of two other authors who have mastered the art of colonial exploration through multi-generational series. I am eager to see how he ends things in the final novel.

Kudos, Mr. Field, for such a well-paced series. I have been devouring these books and cannot wait to see how it all comes together in the end!