Author: Jennifer Scoullar
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.