Not the Same Sky is based on the true story of the orphan girls who were shipped to Australia between 1848 and 1850 during the great potato famine in Ireland. In total, more than 4000 girls aged between 14 and 20 were dispatched to our shores.
The subject matter is fascinating, yet Evelyn Conlon’s novel is surprisingly humdrum.
The Irish author’s fictional account concentrates on four young women – Anne Sherry, Bridget Joyce, Julia Cuffe and Honora Raferty – who are in the same workhouse when the matron calls their names and announces: “It’s Australia for you.”
The quartet loses family, friends, language and identity as they cross the oceans and relocate in a strange land. However, most of the ladies prove to be more than resilient and forge a new life in the colonies. All of them are on a journey both physically and emotionally, and it doesn’t truly matter if they ever arrive.
Conlon’s prose is admirably pointed and descriptive, as well as low-key and thoughtful. But the narrative plays like a dramatised documentary which is usefully edifying but not much fun.
The writer has an impressive track-record and an intriguing premise, but Not The Same Sky wastes much on a bland telling with very little pay-off.
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