Rodney Hall: The Yandilli trilogy


The latest addition to my website is Rodney Hall‘s Yandilli trilogy. The trilogy consists of three novels, all set in the fictitious settlement of Yandilli, in New South Wales. The novels are set thirty years apart – with the first in 1838, the second in 1868 and the third in 1898. The first chronologically – The Second Bridegroom – though the second to be written and published, is narrated by a printer from the Isle of Man who, after his father is hanged for smuggling, tries to earn some money by forging a document produced by Caxton. He is arrested and initially sentenced to hang for theft but, when he is able to prove that it is a forgery, he is sentenced to transportation to Australia. He becomes the first white man to set foot in New South Wales and is able to escape his captors and is adopted by a tribe of aborigines. However, the tribe will soon come across the white settlers he has escaped from and there will be violent confrontation.

The second novel chronologically (the third to be written and published) – The Grisly Wife – tells of a group of women who look up to a male leader they call The Prophet. They emigrate to Australia (to Yandilli) to await the second coming of Christ. The story is narrated by Catherine Byrne, the wife of The Prophet. She contracts tuberculosis but recovers and also realises she is pregnant while her husband is absent. As she has not, as far as she is aware, had sex with him, she worries what he will think though suspects that she might be the second example of a virgin birth. When he returns from his travels with a German opera singer, she is concerned. The sect drifts apart, with murder and death its lot.

The final book, the first to be written – Captivity Captive – is based on the true story of the Gatton murders. It is narrated by Patrick Murphy, brother of the three victims. It tells the story of their upbringing with two physically large and tough parents and ten children as well as telling of the events leading up to the murders and the aftermath. Hall uses the real story and the real names as the basis for his story but tells a fictional account of what happened in the family – including their dark secret – and the details of the murders. All three are superbly told stories, with the first two narrated by narrators who are not alway coherent or reliable and the third told by a survivor fifty-eight years after the events he is describing. Sadly, this book is out of print, even in Australia.

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