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Morgan's Run
By Colleen McCullough

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Morgan's Run
By Colleen McCullough
Thorndike Press - Large Print, (2001)
ISBN: 0-7862-3083-5
Genre: Historical Fiction

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - April 26, 2002

Colleen McCullough is well known for her epic works of fiction, such The Thorn Birds and her Masters of Rome series, which is based on the history surrounding Ancient Rome. Detailed, engaging, and well-written, McCullough's books are hard to put down. In Morgan's Run she again proves her ability to transport the reader to a bygone age, and to hold you mesmerized until she consents to let you go.

Morgan's Run centers around the life of Richard Morgan. A skilled gunsmith, Morgan has found it necessary, from time to time, to work in his father's Bristol Tavern. Overall, his life was relatively happy, yet he was followed by a string of poor luck. In 1767 he married Margaret Biggs, with whom he had two children. A devoted father and husband, he was devastated when his first child died from smallpox. His life further crumbles when his wife died, an event which was quickly followed by the disappearance of his son William Henry.

McCullough presents a riveting biography of Morgan and his decent into hell. Trying to put his life back together he takes up with a woman of dubious morals. Before he knows what is happening, he finds himself imprisoned on the charge of grand larceny and extortion. His punishment - transportation to Australia. A few years earlier might have found him on a ship bound for America, but the American Revolution made it necessary to find a new dumping ground for England's human garbage.

In chilling detail, McCullough follows Morgan's humiliations and ill-treatment as he, and his fellow convicts, are shipped out to Botany Bay in 1787. This is the first shipment of convicts to Australia, but it will not be the last. Once there, those that survived the voyage found that there was cause to envy the dead. But, Morgan is a fighter and a leader of men, and at his very core, a survivor. Once in Australia, McCullough continues to follow Morgan's life, as he struggles to build a new life for himself in a new, and yet untamed land.

Morgan's Run is a dynamic narrative, rich in detail and peopled with vivid characters. The story is not only compelling as general work of fiction, but also for its historical veracity. It presents a realistic representation of the British penal system toward the end of the 1700's. It also offers an intriguing glimpse at what life was like for those unfortunate enough to be sent to Australia against their will.

This book is an epic volume, and it is best suited for those who like to immerse themselves into a period and a character. If you are looking for a quick read - look elsewhere as this book is slow-paced and the 'action' minimal. Unlike most modern works of fiction, this is not a book designed to titillate or excite. Rather it is a detailed overview of Morgan's life, and consequently it relies heavily on historical details and in-depth character analysis. While I enjoyed this book, I much preferred McCullough's Masters of Rome series. In large part this preference is based solely on my own 'historical' interests rather than on the writing or story lines.


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