Review: In Tasmania: Adventures at the End of the World

In Tasmania: Adventures at the End of the World by Nicholas Shakespeare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nicholas Shakespeare, British novelist and biographer, and his wife travel to Tasmania to take a break from it all, fall in love with the place and decide to move there. This book is the result of that decision. It's part history, part genealogy, part ramble as Shakespeare conveys to us his discovery of Tasmania and his familial connections to the place.

The story is in four parts - the first is about Shakespeare's research regarding his long lost relation Anthony Fenn Kemp, who was the self-described "father of Tasmania", (described elsewhere in the book as a "great ass".) When Shakespeare tells the librarian at the Hobart archives that he is related to Kemp she advises him "I would not go around divulging that information." Through Kemp's story we learn about the early European settlement of Tasmania.

Part II tells of Tasmania's Aborigines and how they were thought to have died out, but have been recently "rediscovered". Part III tells of another of Shakespeare's long lost relations and provides insight into the hardships of a generation later than Kemps - those who migrated to Tasmania in the early twentieth century. Finally, Part IV brings us back to today (with a brief diversion to tell the story of actress Merle Oberon, a "true daughter of Tasmania") and completes the story of how Shakespeare and family came to Tasmania.

The book does ramble, but as one who loves history and who has dived down rabbit holes doing my own genealogical research, I was more than happy to ramble with him. As an author Shakespeare has a light touch, and though the book is almost 400 pages long it seemed to go quickly each time I picked it up. As each of the four parts stand mostly on their own, I did put the book down in between parts but on picking it back up I found myself staying up late to finish each part.

I picked this book up in Hobart in 2018 when visiting Tasmania, and it's sat in my rather large pile of "to be read" books until now. I am happy to finally be making time to tackle that pile and bring it back down to a manageable size. :)

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