Author(s): Charlotte Randall
"When the Captain find us stowaways and give us the choice between join the island or join the crew, all of us to a man cry island! island! So he put us ashore with a few provisions and a trypot and sail away." After escaping from the Norfolk Island jail on a whaling ship, Bloodworth and three fellow convicts are left on a remote southern island by a captain who promises to pick them up in one year. It will be nearly a decade before they are rescued. In the intervening years, four men with nothing in common but a desire to escape Norfolk Island and a need to survive, live together in cramped and freezing isolation. But they are no longer under the cruel control of their jailers, so it is freedom, isn't it? Based on the true story of four convicts who spent more than nine years on the Snares Islands in the early years of the nineteenth century, Charlotte Randall's latest novel is a riveting, intelligent and powerful work of fiction.
I am two-thirds of the way through, and very much enjoying, this excellent and interesting novel based on an actual group of four convicts who escaped from Norfolk Island aboard a sealing ship in the early nineteenth century and ended up spending a decade on an isolated subantarctic island in the Snares. Randall uses her deliberately small palette to examine issues of restriction and freedom, nature and culture, individual and society, doing and observing, value and subsistence, justice and necessity without these ever feeling forced or breaking the compelling narrative voice of the main character, Bloodworth. Where I'm up to at present, Bloodworth is not only isolated on a small island in the middle of the southern ocean, he has been further isolated in a deep hole for what his comrades (all wonderfully drawn) regard as a serious crime. I can't wait to get back to the book! - Thomas (14.1.15)
Randall is a very fine writer and this tale of four escaped convicts from the Norfolk Island penal colony in the early nineteenth century is excellent. The convicts escape, only to be caught as stowaways. Given a choice of join the crew (who don’t seem too well watered and fed) or the Island, they choose the latter. Dumped on Snares Island they are left with a bag of potatoes, a tri-pot and an empty promise of passage in a year if they collect enough seal skins. With little in common except a desire to survive, they are thrown together in the midst of the ocean on a small inhospitable island. Nicknamed Slangham, Toper, Gargantua and Bloodworth, they each have their own ways of coping – hard work, faith, sarcasm, and watchfulness. Based on a true story, this is an intriguing and intelligent novel. Randall successfully gets under the skin of these men to give us rich characters with surprisingly formidable abilities and crushing weaknesses. She subtly reflects, through her characters and their conversations, the concerns of men, survival and the thinking of the time. The Bright Side of My Condition is a fiction finalist in the New Zealand Post Book Awards. - Stella
Charlotte Randall is the award-winning author of seven novels. Her first, Dead Sea Fruit, won the South East Asian/South Pacific section of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for best first book and the Reed Fiction Award in 1995. Her much-praised second novel, The Curative, was joint runner-up for the Deutz Medal for fiction at the 2001 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. What Happen Then, Mr Bones? (2004) and The Crocus Hour (2008) were finalists for the same award.