The Curer of Souls

Simpson, Lindsay (2006) The Curer of Souls. Random House, Sydney, Australia.

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You are already spoken for, as am I, yet from the day I saw your passion and curiosity for life, you seemed at once familiar and shocking to me … It is time to write of secrets so long kept. As each day passes I know there is truth in Mr Darwin’s hypotheses, though he may feel as if he’s confessing to a murder.

London, 1865. Lydia Frankland finds a love letter from her late stepmother, Jane, to Louis Lemprière, an amateur botanist in Port Arthur. The letter suggests Jane had an affair with Lemprière in Van Diemen’s Land twenty years before, when Lydia’s father was governor there.

Compelled to uncover the truth about her family’s past, Lydia sets sail to the colony, now named Tasmania. There, she discovers diaries and letters containing more family secrets and she is horrified to realise that her ‘heroic’ father presided over a penal colony so cruel that prisoners, including young boys, chose death over incarceration. She is also taken back to an era that heralded monumental changes in the way mankind thought of itself; where Darwin’s fledgling theories of evolution were threatening long-held religious beliefs.

As dark truths are revealed, and Lydia discovers more about Jane and Louis’ relationship, she wonders whether history is best left undisturbed. Will the price of her curiosity put her own longed-for love in jeopardy?

In this gripping historical novel Simpson has drawn upon real nineteenth-century diaries to inspire her fiction and give voice to the silences that history has left behind.

Research Statement

Research Background This research focuses on using fiction to reconfigure the archives and refocus historical gaze through examining the place of male and female narratives in 19th century travelogues. The research falls in the area of narrative or literary journalism and how literary techniques can be employed to recreate the real. The broad area of research focus is the genre of creative non-fiction and writing practice as a form of research.
Research Contribution The Curer of Souls drew from primary sources, including three nineteenth century diaries, as a stepping off point into fiction and was a palimpsest of contested readings using multiple sources, both real and imagined. In the novel, the diarists' own words are used to explore recreating characters and the art of writing the real. The novel is a form of discursive engagement with real and imagined characters in an historical world, exploring experiences both familiar and unfamiliar to the contemporary reader within the hybrid possibilities offered by the contemporary lens. The work stems from factual material and writing from the real.
Research Significance The Curer of Souls was short listed in the prestigious Colin Roderick Award in 2007. The work, which was the creative component in my doctoral thesis, is significant in the research area of narrative or literary journalism as well as examining the divide between history and fiction as ways of retelling the past and how literary techniques can be employed to recreate the real.
Item ID: 1756
Item Type: Book (Creative Work)
ISBN: 1-74-166107-2
Keywords: Australian historical fiction; diaries and fiction; Van Diemen's Land; transportation; convicts; evolution; homosexual
Additional Information:

This novel draws upon three nineteenth century diaries and uses fiction to map the silences from the primary sources.

Date Deposited: 15 Oct 2007
FoR Codes: 19 STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 1903 Journalism and Professional Writing > 190301 Journalism Studies @ 100%
SEO Codes: 94 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 9405 Work and Institutional Development > 940599 Work and Institutional Development not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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