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THE FLOATING BROTHEL By: Sian Rees June 6, 2010

Posted by lycan librarian in book reviews, Books and reading.
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     This fascinating 2002 selection was dusty when pulled from the Moonlit Library’s shelf, so it is now enjoying a much-deserved spot on the “Books to Howl About” hot picks shelf next to the checkout desk. The full title is THE FLOATING BROTHEL: THE EXTRAORDINARY TRUE STORY OF AN EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY SHIP AND ITS CARGO OF FEMALE CONVICTS. And the story is, indeed, extraordinary
     This is the fictionalized true account of the 1789 voyage of The Lady Julian, a ship that took 240 female convicts from London to the penal colony in Sydney Cove, New South Wales. These woman, mostly convicted for petty crimes, were sentenced to transportation to parts beyond the seas to relieve overcrowding in British jails and to provide sexual comfort and perhaps heirs to male prisoners of which nothing had been heard for over a year.  It is quite an adventure tale, and the accurate and clear details of the trip are described to stimulate all five senses, from the reek of menstrual blood and body odor, to the horrid results of wearing clothes washed in salt water.

     The  human cargo on this particular ship are fortunate, because their captain is kind and they are fed and treated humanely. There are brief mentions of other ships whose methods differed, and whose crews and cargos failed to thrive, and in some cases, to live. This account, gathered mostly from the published memoirs of John Nicol, one of the Lady Julian’s sailors,  goes on to follow some of the women from this ship as they landed, formed relationships and rebuilt their lives. Some even prospered — something they had little chance of doing if they had remained in England.

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