Author: Tea Cooper
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher
The Naturalist’s Daughter is an interesting read and takes an indepth look at one of Australia’s iconic animals. An animal that is as enigmatic as it is iconic and one that I admit I don’t know a lot about, or didn’t until I read this book anyway.
The platypus is an animal that lives on our currency but I don’t know that I have ever actually seen one. I remember learning a little about them in primary school …. about a million years ago; but I don’t recall them ever really being a part of my adult knowledge base which is a little sad because they are a fascinating mammal.
Tea Cooper explores Australian history as she delves into the controversy surrounding the classification of the platypus in a tale that is both mysterious and intriguing.
The Platypus is a fascinating creature but not one that I would have thought warranted a novel of it’s own, until I read this one. The platypus takes a front row seat but it’s not the only star of the story, there is a quite intriguing cast of human characters with their own stories to tell.
The narrative spans a century, and still ends over a century ago. I’m not sure if there is any factual basis to the controversy over classification or if any of the associated names are real people. That is something part of me is itching to go and research but I know that really that’s just a procrastination tool because I’m struggling due to leaving it so long to review.
In Sydney in 1908 there is a sketchbook bequeathed to the Public Library by a recluse; a book that could be worth quite a lot, or very little depending on it’s authenticity. Tamsin Alleyn is tasked with traveling to the Hunter Valley to retrieve the book but when she arrives she discovers more than she bargained for. There is more than one interested party and not everyone cares for the historical significance of the find.
Tamsin finds herself working with Shaw Everdene, a lawyer also involved in the case of the bequeathed book, to uncover the mysteries of the sketchbook. The more they learn the more they realise they don’t know. The mystery gets deeper and they are left with more questions.
The second storyline takes place in 1808 with Rose Winton working alongside her father, the renowned naturalist Charles Winton. The two are doing some groundbreaking study of the platypus and Charles is ahead of his time, moreso because he is happy to allow Rose to work alongside him. Unfortunately when he is finally offered the opportunity to journey back to the prestigious Royal Society in England and present his findings he is unable to make the long sea journey and Rose sets off in his place.
The Royal Society hasn’t yet recognised females so it isn’t as easy as Rose just making the trip, not that she’s to know that at the time. We follow through her experiences with her first time leaving Australia and all of the secrets she uncovers across the sea. There are many mysteries to be solved for Rose and she finds that things are far from how they seem.
The Naturalist’s Daughter is mysterious, suspenseful, engaging, enlightening and a fascinating look at the history of our country and one of it’s iconic mammals. The more I read by Tea Cooper the more I want to read. Her storytelling just gets stronger and her vibrant painting of our country’s history is always a satisfying experience.