Book Review: Perseverance: Book Two of the Garth Trilogy by L.F.McDermott

Perseverance continues the story of two convict families, the Garths and their friends, the Belletts, which began in Of Angels and Eagles. It spans the years 1809-1864 and focuses on the next generation, primarily James Garth and Mary Belletts.

When the Government decides to close the penal settlement of Norfolk Island, the two families are forced to leave and resettle in Van Diemen's Land.

Perseverance opens with the Belletts arriving in Hobart Town to take up their land grants and to be reunited with the Garths.

Hobart Town is still a military outpost and a penal settlement and, to their dismay, is far more primitive than Norfolk Island. Faced with shortages, rationing and broken promises, the Norfolk Islanders have no option but to accept what they have been allocated and make the best of a bad situation. After twenty years on Norfolk Island, both families now face the challenge of rebuilding their lives in a wilderness. A task made even harder by the threat of starvation, disease, bushrangers, escaped convicts and the escalating conflict between the settlers and the aboriginal people.

James Garth, the eldest son of Edward and Susannah, dreams of a land grant of his own where he can establish a timber mill and boat building enterprise, but not before he has a chance to explore more of the Derwent and Huon Rivers. While Mary Belletts, a daughter of Jacob and Ann, is eager to marry James and raise a family.

I enjoy novels based on the lives of ordinary people. However, like many of our pioneers, the Garths and Bellets were far from ordinary. Out of adversity (transportation to Botany Bay and then Norfolk Island), Edward, Susannah, Jacob and Ann found support in one another and became very successful settlers on Norfolk Island.

After 20 years there, it must have been hard to leave knowing all they had built would be destroyed to stop it falling into the hands of the French (a threat at the time due to the Napoleonic Wars) and possibly being used by escaped convicts.

'I miss Norfolk, Annie,' she said. 'I hate to think about our house being pulled down and whether the fields have been burned.'

A sense of loss and despondency is felt by the older Garths and Bellets, who believe their age is against them, but with their sense of optimism and the help of the next generation, are determined to rebuild their lives.

James has his own vision for the future and is excited about exploring the waters around where his family have settled. He has a keen eye for opportunity and, like his parents, is as determined to succeed. He befriends an Aboriginal boy, Pukara, from the Mouheneer tribe. They communicate by signing and drawing pictures in the sand. From Pukara, James learns a lot about the Aboriginal way of life and believes this knowledge will help him live in harmony with them.

Perseverance is a well written and engaging story inspired by Lynette McDermott's research of her convict ancestors. She writes convincingly of the hardships and challenges the families faced; of the births, deaths and marriages that make up the fabric of all families and of daily lives woven into the history of Van Diemen's Land, with occasional glimpses of what life was like on Norfolk Island.

While there is enough back story included to make Perseverance a standalone novel, it has piqued my interest in the lives of the Garths and Bellets before they arrived in Van Diemen's Land. I am now just as eager to read the first book as I am the final in the series.

For those who enjoy historical fiction set in Australia or who want to know more about the settlement of Van Diemen's Land, Perseverance is a welcome addition to any reading pile.

Thank you to Aisling Enterprises for providing a free copy to read and review. More information about the book and background on the writing of the trilogy can be found on Lynnette McDermott's website here.


  1. That is an interesting time period and setting that is new to me. Thanks for the review.

    1. I learned some interesting facts about Tasmania's history from reading this novel.