Book Club: Fortune’s Son

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Author: Jennifer Scoullar
ISBN: 9780143783527
RRP: $32.99

My first introduction to Jennifer Scoullar’s writing was back in 2012 with her debut, Brumby’s Run, and I have tried to keep up with her work ever since. Scoullar writes passionate environmental narrative with lovable anthropomorphised animal characters. Fortune’s Son is another passionate novel addressing environmental issues and featuring gorgeous animal characters but this one is a little different, this time Scoullar takes us across Bass Strait and back through centuries.

Fortune’s Son is set in Tasmania before the extinction of the Tasmanian Tiger, they were critically endangered but a few could still be found in the wild. It was also a time of mining and lots of land clearing so the story fodder for a passionate environmentalist like Scoullar was certainly thick.

The people, the animals and the places; such vivid and vibrant story-telling which wholly swept me away to the bushland of Tasmania. I haven’t been keeping up with my reading with so much happening in real life that I thought this was going to take a lot longer, I got caught up last night and read almost half the book.

Luke Tyler is a hardworking young man with a bright future; he has the brains, the looks and a cheeky charm that endears him to most people he comes in contact with. He also has a strong sense of loyalty and family so of course he stands up to protect his sister from the wealthy Sir Henry Abbott, but when it comes down to it money can buy pretty much anything and Luke finds himself sentenced to fifteen years in a hard labour camp.

Fortune’s Son is largely Luke’s story; his sentence, his escape, his time working with his childhood teacher, his exploration of the world and his return to seek revenge. The story spans decades which offers an amazing scope for changes in the world and the stories of a couple of other important characters.

Luke is sentenced to time in a hard labour camp, hard being the operative word; and it’s no place for a fourteen year old boy regardless of what century you’re living in. Luke dreams of escaping but struggles to find the courage knowing that things will only get worse if he gets caught. One day Luke finds himself in a situation that offers incentive, and courage, to escape so he takes his chances and finds a furry four legged friend in the process.

The romance side of the story was nothing groundbreaking; poor boy falls in love with wealthy girl and the world is against their union. It’s been done, but what love match or triangle hasn’t. Luke is in love with the only child of his cherished teacher, his childhood best friend Belle. Thoughts of her help him get through the long days in the prison camp but if he was never going to be a proper match for her before there is even less chance now that he’s a convicted criminal.

Luke has definitely had the deck stacked against him but manages to work through or around the obstacles to carry on, and even make a better future for himself. No matter how much some things change though it isn’t enough to change his situation. He is always going to be a fugitive from the law and that’s something society won’t overlook.

Fortune’s Son follows Luke through his incarceration, his escape, his life as a fugitive and his new beginnings in South Africa, where his life ends up quite similar to the one he left in Tasmania. The wealthy men who own the mines are happy to exploit their workers and because the options are limited there’s not much choice but to take the work. Man wants the land that is home to countless native species but they think they’re more important so hunting, poaching and clearing of land see species in danger of dying out. Luke is inspired to do what he can to make a difference.

We also need to keep up with what’s happening back home in Tasmania, especially considering Luke was forced to flee his love, whose mother was trying to make a good match for her. It was no surprise that the match ended up being with Edward Abbott, the son of the man behind Luke’s misfortunes.

Luke makes some unlikely animal friends right from the time of his escape beginning with the Newfoundland dog that becomes his closest friend, then there’s devils and tigers that need to be raised and readied for a return to the wild. His South African adventures were the most exciting for me to follow, Luke creates a wild game reserve filled with big cats, bears and the animals hunted for their black market value.

Fortune’s Son is an engaging saga that ties together three families through two decades and explores the threads that connect them. It is a tale of love, betrayal and revenge that forever focused on the way forward; hopefully taking us all where Luke needs to be.

This may be Jennifer Scoullar’s first foray into historical but I really hope that it’s not the last. It was interesting to read about Tasmanian Tigers before they all died out and a Tasmanian set historical was new to me. The exploration of different mining types and methods were interesting, especially for someone living in what was once an old mining town.

Fortune’s Son is book #27 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2017.

Jennifer Scoullar can be followed on Facebook, and Twitter.

Fortune’s Son is available now through PenguinRandomHouse, Booktopia, Angus & Robertson Bookworld and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to Penguin Random House 10 of our Beauty and Lace Club Members will be reading Fortune’s Son so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments.

9 thoughts on “Book Club: Fortune’s Son

  1. I have just finished reading Fortune’s Son by Jennifer Scoullar, and what a wonderful journey I have been on! I loved this book and really didn’t want it to end… I do hope the story will continue in more books.

    It is a captivating tale set around the trials of young Luke Tyler and the people in his life – from age 14 when he is wrongfully imprisoned for rescuing his sister Becky from her lecherous employer, to his mid 30’s when after years of hardship and loss his fortune has finally changed and he is in a position to right the many wrongs that have been done to him…

    Intertwined with Luke’s story is an interesting historical glimpse at a developing society… Just as Luke becomes more sophisticated throughout the book, so too do we see the emergence of early labour laws, women’s rights and changing appreciation for Australian art and animal and land conservation.

    This is such a beautifully evocative book, written with such lyrical descriptions that you cant help but be enraptured by the people, the animals and the majestic setting of the Tasmanian bush and its amazing wildlife – the (now extinct) Tasmanian Tigers and the ( endangered) Tasmanian Devils.
    I thoroughly recommend this wonderful book.

  2. Fortune’s Son by Jennifer Scoullar.
    Set in the late 1800’s in Tasmania, Fortune’s Son is the story of Luke Tyler and his journey for redemption.
    At the tender age of 14 Luke is sentenced to 14 years hard labour on a prison farm, after defending his sister from being attacked by the rich and powerful Henry Abbott. Luke’s once bright future now looks bleak as he learns the hard way the truth is no match for money and power.
    Luke suffers four long years on the prison farm, getting through each tough day by memories of his family and childhood, before one day seizing a chance to escape.
    At a dog pit fight Luke is transfixed by a beautiful Newfoundland dog, forced to fight the dog flees into the bush, giving Luke the courage to also escape.
    After tracking the dog through the bush, Luke finds an abandoned hut in the hills where he rests, regaining his strength and forming a special bond with the Newfoundland dog which he names Bear.
    Sanctuary and a job are found with Daniel Campbell (who was Luke’s childhood teacher and mentor) a nature conservationist trying to save Tasmania’s unique wildlife from extinction, with a strong focus on the Tasmanian Tiger which is blamed for killing sheep and thus have a bounty on there head.
    A forbidden relationship forms between Daniels daughter Belle and Luke.
    Luke is feeling on top of the world, he’s in love and has a job doing something he loves, even if the Abbott family is always there in the background a reminder that he is not a free man.
    It of course doesn’t last, someone has found out who Luke is and betrayed him, forcing him to escape or face being caught and hung.
    Luke escapes to South Africa where he starts afresh, setting up wildlife sanctuaries to save the native wildlife from hunters. Although he has everything he could possible want, there is something missing, Belle still haunts his dreams.
    The reader is also kept up to date during this time with Belle’s life in Tasmania.
    Upon returning to Tasmania Luke seeks revenge for the wrongs he has been dealt but at what cost?
    Fortunes Son is a captivating read with a strong focus on nature and conservation, following three families over a period and the ties/secrets that keep them all connected.
    I really enjoyed reading this tale, with all the twists and turns, the narratives from the animals point of view also added an extra interesting element to the story, I’m hoping by the way the book ended there is more books to come.
    Thanks to Penguin and Beauty and Lace for the chance to review it.

  3. Thank you so much Beauty and Lace Book Club and to Penguin Random House for letting me read and review Fortunes Son. I loved the story from the moment I picked it up, Well done to Jennifer Scoullar for writing such an epic story from start to finish. I will put it up there as one of my all times favourites as I cannot fault it.

    There is so much packed into this story from love, drama, Australian History, but all without making the reader feel overwhelmed or constantly having to turn back and check what has been written before. The story flowed really well and each chapter connected with what happened before. I also learnt a bit about our culture and treatment of animals and areas that perhaps should not have happened. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It also brought to light the beginning of womens movement, the decline of the Tasmanian tiger, slavery and service, aboriginal art and preservation of land for the future. But stories like these make them feel alive as if they only happened yesterday.

    It wasn’t until the end of the book that I realised there are others books written by Jennifer that I will have to hunt out and read.



  4. Fortune’s Son is the first Jennifer Scoullar book I have read. She is a marvellous author who transported me to Tasmania in the 1800’s. The story is centered around a young boy, Luke, his teacher, Daniel and his daughter Belle.
    Luke’s promising future is dashed and he is sent to a prison camp. His harsh life is contrasted to the life of the rich and privileged. One of whom, Edward is young and rich and appears to have everything Luke dreams of. However Edward has suffered emotionally at the hands of his father. Although this leads him to be a very unlikable character, there are redeeming features that the author weaves in very well.. Scoullar is very clever in developing very real personalities for all her characters. I felt emotionally involved in their lives and did not want the story to end.
    The author is a keen environmentalist and weaves the human story with the story of the then endangered Tasmanian tigers and devils. The author has cleverly based this part of the story on the true story of one of the early pioneers who was trying to protect these animals. Luke has an infinity with animals and this is what keeps him going when life seems so harsh. Eventually he moves to South Africa. Here his fortune changes and his love of animals enables him to establish reserves for the native animals to protect them from hunters.
    This book has a broad scope, history, the environment, romance, human frailty and human persistence. She manages to weave all this into a wonderful tale. I reccomend this book to everyone.

  5. Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Penguin for the opportunity to read and review Fortune’s Son. Prior to reading this book I was not familiar with author Jennifer Scoullar’s work, but if this book is representative of her writing I will be looking to read more of her work.

    Fortune’s Son is set in Tasmania in the 1880’s before the Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacine) becomes extinct. Luke Tyler is 14 years old, good looking, smart, well liked, with everything going for him until the day he arrives to pick his sister Becky up from Sir Henry Abbott”s house where she works as a kitchen maid. Becky isn’t in the kitchen where she should be and Mrs Dunsley, the housekeeper, is behaving strangely. Pushing past Mrs Dunsley into the hall he hears faint sobs from a nearby room and bursts in to find Sir Henry raping his sister. Luke reacts instinctively, pulling Sir Henry off Becky and hurling him into a wall, breaking Sir Henry’s nose and two front teeth and then with a punch to the temple he renders Sir Henry unconscious.

    Luke is about to discover that in this day and age the law favours the rich. He is certain that he is in the right justice will prevail and Sir Henry will pay for what he has done to Becky even after he is arrested for grievous assault. But when it comes to his day in court he is shocked to discover that he stands accused of attempting to steal the family silverware from Sir Henry, knocking Mrs Dunsley to the floor and when Sir Henry attempted to intervene hitting him in the mouth and running away. No mention of the assault on Becky is made. Luke realises he can’t put his sister through being called as a witness, and so despite the falsity of the charges against him he pleads guilty and is sentenced to 15 years hard labour.

    Luke keeps his sanity and hope for the future alive by thinking of his mentor and teacher Daniel Campbell and Daniel’s daughter Belle (affectionately nicknames Bluebell, his tomboy princess). Eventually Luke manages to escape, but is tormented by Belle’s decision to wed Sir Henry’s son Edward. A betrayal means he must run for his life or be caught and hung as an escaped prisoner

    To start afresh Luke sails to South Africa where he reinvents himself, but memories of Belle haunt him and he risks all to return to Tasmania to reclaim his life and seek revenge.

    Throughout the book Scoullar paints a vivid picture of the beauty and the wildness of Tasmania, the inequities between the rich and the poor at that time in history, and the sad decline and eventual extinction of the Thylacine. The plot and characters are strong and well rounded and the story leaves you feeling satisfied with the ending, while leaving an opening for a possible continuation of the story.

    I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good read with some Australian history thrown in. I give it 5 stars.

  6. Thank you Beauty and Lace for selecting me to read Fortunes Son written by Jennifer Scoullar
    Wow what an amazing book from the 1st chapter to the last
    I really felt like I was traveling alongside Luke Tyler ( main character in the book ) during his adventures some good some bad
    I was so drawn into this novel
    The authors description of the Tasmanian wilderness, wildlife and scenery was excellent
    Luke is an amazing 14 year old boy who matures into a wonderful man, morally, kind who cares for others as well as the environment
    From Tasmania to South Africa readers will get a sense of the difference between the rich and the poor
    I cannot fault this book at all
    I am sure all readers will love

  7. I just finished Fortune’s Son today and wow what an amazing read this was. I started reading it properly yesterday and had trouble putting it down…nevermind the overflowly laundry baskets ha ha!
    We follow Luke Tyler, a young man sent to prison for a crime against the horrid Sir Henry Abbot. Eventually we see Luke escape and find a companion along the way, Bear a beautiful large dog. The two form a strong bond and from there Luke finds his old Teacher Daniel who takes him in.
    As the story goes on we see Luke and Belle (Daniels daughter) fall in love and what a strong love that is. However circumstances make the union too hard and we see Luke move away…so much happens in Fortune’s Son and I loved every page. The characters Luke meets on his journey are heartwarming such as Angus and the vast range of animals Luke befriends. Luke is witty and smart and I’m glad the story ended how it did.
    I will be recommending this read to all my book loving friends!
    Thank you Beauty & Lace, Jennifer Scoullar and Penguin. 5/5 stars

  8. This is a captivating story set in both Tasmania and South Africa and begins with 14 year old Luke Tyler finding his sister Rebecca being raped by her employer Sir Henry Abbott. Luke dragged Sir Henry by the collar, hurled him headfirst against a wall and struck him in the face rendering him unconscious. Luke was charged with grievous assault and was sentences to 15 years hard labour. After 4 long years he was able to escape into the rugged Tasmanian bush and subsequently found that his former teacher Daniel Campbell was living nearby. Daniel and his wife Elizabeth took Luke in and he started a forbidden relationship with their daughter Belle.

    When Luke was betrayed he had the choice of fleeing or being hanged. He decided to go to South Africa and start a new life going under the name of Colonel Lucas Buchanan. Luke was continually haunted by the past and by Belle who he was unable to forget.

    This is a story of inequality and injustices, the rugged bush, the local wildlife of devils and tigers, the diamond mines of South Africa and the conservation fight for land and animals in both Tasmania and South Africa
    I just could not put down this book until I reached the finish and I definitely have no hesitation in recommending it.

    I would like to thank both Penguin Books and Beauty and Lace for giving me the opportunity to read and review this wonderfully written book.

  9. Fortune’s Son by Jennifer Scoullar delivers all it promises and more. Cancel all impending appointments as you won’t want to put it down
    It tells the tale of injustice and its effects on the life of Luke Tyler. Luke is sentenced to a term of 14 years for defending his sister
    He escapes and starts a new life in South Africa. This is a story of love, of determination and resilience. The author is able to bring the characters to life. The backdrops of Tasmania and South Africa bring a richness to the story as do the various animals
    I highly recommend this book. I hope it is the first in a series as I enjoyed it so much

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