The Silk Merchant’s Son by Peter Burke, is a book that I found to be very thought-provoking. Based on historical fact, it’s set in WA during the 1840s.
It follows the lives of various members of the clergy, both male and female, as they travel from various locations in Europe to WA, with the intent of introducing religion to the local Aboriginal population.
This story shows how their involvement in the history of WA had both positive and negative impacts. With the money from the churches invested in local communities, towns grew where there had not been a town before, and schools appeared.
At the same time, it was believed that the only way to help save the souls of the Aboriginal children was to remove them from their families, and put them in the care of the church. We know from our history they were placed into white Christian homes where they were educated not only in religion, but also taught to read and write.
They were given clothing and taught our white man’s ways, but even so, they were never really accepted as equals. The children weren’t allowed to visit their families as it was believed that it just upset them and distracted them from their studies.
Some of the children were placed on boats and taken to Europe, where sadly it seems that many passed away. Perhaps from deep homesickness, the freezing cold, or exposure to white man’s diseases.
This book left me questioning that if a person does something with the strong belief that they are doing the best for someone, is the act something that’s forgivable? Especoally when it has in fact harmed the very person they felt they were helping?
Is it really OK to remove someone from their family and culture without first taking the time to learn their ways, especially if that person is perfectly happy? Why do some people have the need to force their belief system on others?
Peter Burke is a doctor and lives in Perth and writes WA historical fiction. His first novel, The Drowning Dream, was shortlisted for both the Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award and the WA Premier’s Book Award.
If you have an interest in the history of the church in Australia and/or WA history then this is a great book to learn from. Not a cruisy read but very thought provoking.
A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are The Silk Merchant’s Son by Peter Burke. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.
Im a Mum of 3 beautiful girls.
An avid reader that loves to travel but lacks the funds to venture far and wide constantly. A perfumeaholic with an addiction to beauty and skincare.
If not found with my head in a book or on a plane I can be found spending hours upon hour in Doctors and Hospital waiting rooms as part of my job as a Carer