Search for the Light

Daring to lift her eyes, she glanced around. The kinder amongst those twelve good men would describe her glance as furtive, the less kind would say shifty. Had she been asked she would have said fearful; but no one did enquire. The judge asked his question a second time; this time with impatience.
‘Have you anything to say on your behalf?’
What should she say to a judge? It was beyond her experience, so she replied with the only words she could conjure.
‘Please sir, I am a housemaid and my family don’t know where I am.’
She shivered uncontrollably, although the afternoon warmth made her stained, woollen dress stick damply to her skin. The huge courtroom overawed her. It was a room bigger and grander than she had ever seen or imagined was possible. The jury to her right stared intently at her, but she avoided their stare as she would avoid the look of any man. Instead, she hung her head and stared unseeing at her tight, entwined hands, making her look both sullen and guilty. It was of no consequence to them that she was young and pretty for she was just another girl down on her luck. There were a thousand others, no ten thousand, others like her. Something must be done about it.
Nora felt unrehearsed for these legal proceedings. She had no money for a lawyer and found this whole experience terrifying. The stern appearance of the judge, in his scarlet robes and long horsehair wig, made her want to crawl into a hole somewhere. But here in this large courtroom, there was nowhere to hide, nowhere to escape. She was the main exhibit.
The horrors of the morning still tormented her. Chained to other prisoners at the ankle, she shuffled from Millbank to the Old Bailey. The journey took a good hour, as they tried to avoid the rotting fruit thrown by ragamuffins, gleeful that there were some worse off than themselves. The shame of it sickened her. She felt tired and sore where the iron had bruised her ankle and. longing for home and her sisters to comfort her, Nora’s mind began to wander again.
But now the judge was speaking and she forced herself to try and take in what he was saying.
‘Eleanora Nolan, you have been found guilty of grand larceny and will be transported beyond the seas for the term of seven years. Next case.’
A smirk of triumph appeared on Mrs Pocket’s face, satisfaction on the constable’s and boredom on the judge’s. Nora listened to the judge but without understanding because the words made no sense to her.
‘Please sir’ she tried again ‘when may I go back to my family?’
‘Take her down,’ was the terse instruction and the court official hastened to comply.

Synopsis
A moment's foolish mistake costs sixteen-year old Nora her freedom and her family. Sentenced to seven years transportation for larceny, she needs to grow up fast to survive prison, the long journey and then life as an assigned servant in Van Diemen's Land of the 1820s. She is sustained by real friendships with other prisoners, Sarah and Helen. Can anyone of them overcome the pitfalls of convict life to become pioneering settlers of modern day Tasmania? This is a story of love and friendship amidst the trials of 19th century Australian colonial life. Nora is innocent and naïve, over protected and adored by her family, she wonders if she can survive without their love and support. Sarah, only fourteen, abandoned by her mother at birth, has never known love, only abuse, first in an orphanage and then in the tavern where she worked washing dishes. Helen is a survivor, gritty, no nonsense but the mother of David, born to her in prison. She will do anything to protect him and the girls she befriends. There are enemies to contend with, jealous, amoral and vindictive Jane and Elizabeth who hound the girls every step of the way. Then there is Mrs Barnard, a Quaker prison visitor, a colleague of Elizabeth Fry, the prison reformer. She makes life bearable for the girls as they wait for the ship to take them from Newgate Prison to Hobart, a journey of five months. Onboard ship, it is George, the sailor assistant to the all-powerful Naval Surgeon, who falls in love with Nora and then puts her life in danger. Only Helen can protect her. In Hobart, a strict code for female convicts pertains, no excuse is accepted and Nora and Helen battle their way through various pitfalls, wondering what has happened to Sarah. Based on a true story from the author’s own family – this novel is the first part of a trilogy about the founding of modern day Australia.
I worked as a librarian for forty years, mostly working with young people, so books have been my life, ever since I first stepped into a library and found a magical treasure trove.

"There were moments when I was doing the literary equivalent of shouting at the TV. It moved me, I felt alarm, indignation, great sadness and elation." Ingenue Magazine Summer 2017

Search for the Light Trailer

A moment's foolish mistake costs sixteen-year old Nora her freedom and her family. Sentenced to seven years transportation for larceny, she needs to grow up fast to survive prison, the long journey and then life as an assigned servant in Van Diemen's Land of the 1820s. She is sustained by