The Sound (Sarah Drummond, Fremantle Press)
From the first pages of Sarah Drummond’s debut novel—with its descriptively realistic prose—you can tell the author has spent time at sea. In fact, Drummond, who has a PhD in history, has previously written a nonfiction account of her time as an apprentice fisherwoman. The Sound confidently transports readers to the Great Southern Ocean of the mid-1820s. The story is not for the faint-hearted—the subject matter is as threatening and rife with potential catastrophe as the landscape that forms its backdrop. Nothing comes easily for the protagonist Wiremu Heke, a Māori man from Aramoana on the south island of New Zealand. Referred to as Billhook by his English and Australian crewmates, he is on a quest for ancestral vengeance but finds himself on a sealing boat with rough men—and the women they have taken from Australian Indigenous communities. These women are tough, funny and clever, and subjected to awful treatment. The plot meanders a little, but the gritty descriptions of life in these times make this a fascinating read. Based on a true story and clearly grounded in the author’s own experiences at sea, this book is an engaging and thought-provoking read, despite being quite confronting at times.
Hannah Cartmel is an editor and co-founder of the Rag & Bone Man Press