Enchanting historical tale set for the most part in Tasmania, with a short interlude in South Africa. Jennifer Scoullar conjures up evocative images of the Tasmanian bush at the end of the 19th century. There is a great appreciation of the natural history of the land and some of its more unusual fauna especially the Thylacine and the Tasmanian Devils. Set against this backdrop is the romantic tale of Belle and Luke, whose relationship is torn apart by class and injustice. At the beginning of the novel, a teenage Luke lashes out at a rich mine owner trying to protect the reputation of his sister, for this act he is thrown into prison for 15 years hard labour, he eventually escapes and spends time in the bush with a big Newfoundland dog called Bear. Luke is an outdoorsy type and “The prospect of living rough with the animals as his sole companions didn’t daunt him. Bear was no longer the only one torn between two worlds.”
Sadly for the Tasmanian Tiger, extinction dawned on the horizon. Coorina, the female thylacine in the story and her cubs meet up with Luke.
Her sensitive nose tested the air over and over for the scent of another thylacine. She was ever disappointed.
The last known living thylacine died in a zoo in 1936 of neglect, the zoo thought it would be easy enough to find another, but they never found another. The thylacine was the apex predator in Tasmania, a carnivorous marsupial with a head like a dog and stripes.
I spent three weeks in Tasmania in 1988, reading about the nature brings back fond memories. There were rumours of sightings of thylacines at the time, but it has since been declared officially extinct.