My copy of this book, The Commandant by Jessica Anderson, was purchased as a second hand copy from Booktopia. It arrived in perfect condition and has been donated to the Community Library. Once I opened its covers I became so absorbed in its rich content I could hardly close the book or put it down.

Book review: by Mary Mageau

The early Moreton Bay Penal Colony, on the banks of the Brisbane River, was founded in 1824. From the beginning it was considered one of the worst colonies to live in, for together with Norfolk Island, it accepted only hardened, repeat offenders. Captain Patrick Logan assumed command of the settlement in 1826. He was a member of a noted Scottish family, and was accompanied by his Irish wife, Leticia O’Berine, and their two young children.

Captain Logan’s excessively cruel and rigid discipline included frequent use of the lash, solitary confinement, and the treadmill. Yet he also developed the settlement by planting fields of wheat, corn and vegetables while carrying out a program of public works. Two of his buildings still survive: the old Tower Mill and the Commissariat Store on William Street. His work as an explorer added much to our early geographical knowledge. Captain Logan named the Logan and Albert Rivers, climbed Mount Barney, and attempted to chart the windings of the upper Brisbane River. In 1830 on one of these expeditions, he met his violent death at the hands of the Aboriginals on Mount Beppo, near Ipswich.

Author Jessica Anderson’s meticulous research and fine craft of writing makes this book a joy to read. Her descriptions of the Australian bush are clothed in vivid imagery, while details of daily life in the colony contribute to a better understanding of the trials and conflicts experienced in these brutal surroundings. We also feel the effects of Captain Logan’s death through the suffering of those close to him, and the differing attitudes of other people that surrounded him.

By 1842 no more prisoners were transported to the penal colony and it was officially closed. As free settlers were arriving in a steady stream, the time had come for the town of Brisbane to spread its wings and to fly.

I highly recommend this book to all those who enjoy reading historical fiction while savouring the work of a fine writer.

Copyright Mary Mageau 2019

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