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Buckley’s Chance by Garry Linnell: Your Preview Verdict

October 28, 2019

Buckley’s Chance by Garry Linnell has been a favourite with our preview readers. They loved the truly inspiring story of William Buckley and the intense research that Linnell put into this book. Read some of their highlights here:

What an incredible story about William Buckley, Australian history buffs are going to love this book as I did, How William survived is unimaginable, a lot of research has gone into this book Garry Linnell 10/10 – Deborah, NSW, 5 stars

Buckley’s chance is a conversational history lesson. The book is well researched and documented. Linnell provides historical context to the events in Buckley’s life, including the criminal justice system, recruitment into the war machine, Napoleonic history and colonial experiences. I truly enjoyed this novel and would recommend it to anyone wanting to expand their historical knowledge, and to those who prefer novels to biographies. Well done Mr Linnell. If only they taught the historical background in schools. – Naomi, NSW, 5 stars

William Buckley certainly took his chances: he survived a Napoleonic war, had a death sentence commuted to life, was shackled for the hellish 6 month transportation to New Holland in 1802, then escaped from captivity to face scalding heat, mosquitoes, snakes and hostile natives. Definitely long odds of survival at every step. Highly likely the source of the ‘Buckley’s or none’ saying. Adopted by the Wadawurrung people, William lived among them for 32 years as Murrangurk, experiencing the mystical and the realities of Aboriginal life. He was not the only white fella to be immersed in indigenous culture, there being records of other escaped convicts and shipwreck sufferers. In the early 18th century Daniel Defoe’s ‘Robinson Crusoe’ novel was published and caused immense fascination in savages and cannibalism. William was feted by many to regale his tale but when written as ‘The Life and Adventures of William Buckley’ by John Morgan the newspaper editor despised by the colonial powers it’s authenticity was questioned. William’s adjustment back into white society was difficult. He was a curiosity, then an invaluable aide in land grabs (especially by John Batman and the Port Phillip Association) and in the control of the natives whilst employed as an interpreter and peace keeper. Caught between the two cultures he abhorred the treatment and slaughter of Aborigines by the whites who then suggested he was organising a black resistance movement. He played his assigned role, but was played by the greedy pastoralists and the power hungry. William’s tale is told by Garry Linnell not just to the reader, but to William Buckley himself. The narrator provides fascinating asides that set the scene historically, politically, culturally and scientifically. It’s enlivened with amusing anecdotes about Mad King George, the haermorrhoid afflicted Napoleon Bonaparte, and that nasty piece of work William Bligh. Little details from many sources are woven to tell the story in an irreverent larrikin style. We learn about the Very First Fleet, the first ever beach warning, the importance of listening for musket ball velocity. And that William Buckley’s role in the early history of Australia deserves greater recognition. My only concern is the use of ‘Aboriginals’ as a noun. – Anita, QLD, 5 stars

I live on Wadawurrung Country, lunched often at Buckley Falls, have a home almost in the middle of where William Buckley must have roamed. Perhaps Buckley had walked past our clothesline, picked his way around the rocks in our front yard and headed for water at the creek that meander through our little town. This is what Linnell did for me as I read “Buckley’s Chance”. The remarkable, almost unbelievable story of Buckley’s life as a soldier, convict, survivor and celebrity trapped between two cultures came alive. At first I thought Linnell was writing a long letter to an old friend, then I realized that he had been interpreting history for me. Linnell takes real accounts and reads between the lines. “Buckley’s Chance” is also so much more than the story of Willan Buckley. It is a romp through the first European settlement of Victoria and how power and influence have always been the most important currency. It is also a moving tribute to the first nations people who were decimated by the greed and speed of European settlement. Get this book on the desks of politicians and into the ipads of students. Essential reading. – Russell, VIC, 5 stars

What a wonderful story. I struggled to put this book down. It has everything – adventure, murder, heartbreak, love and hope. Garry Linnell has superbly written Buckley’s Chance. I really like that it is written in the second person. This makes it feel a more intimate history and adds to the depth of feeling the reader has for William Buckley. I also enjoyed the threads of other stories narrated throughout. These interesting morsels of information had me searching for more details about them. Without a doubt my favourite book this year. – Alice, NSW, 5 stars

BUCKLEY’S CHANCE – Garry Linnell –  This is history at it’s best, we would all be better informed if all history was presented as such.  William Buckley what a character what a life, he fought Napoleon’s army and survived.  A petty crime had him heading to the gallows and yet he managed to escape the noose and was sent in chains to the other side of the world only to escape again. Some would have predicated that he had Buckleys and None chance of survival yet survive he did. Not usually my type of reading and I thank Better Reading for the chance to read out side of the square.  I loved this book and anyone interested in the history of Australia will love it as well. An easy extremely interesting informative book. – Debbie, VIC, 5 stars

“Buckley’s Chance” is compelling reading from the outset and the thorough research is evident throughout the book. The conversational style of writing, from the author to Buckley, results in a book that is no dry historical account of events. A backdrop for the story of Buckley’s life is deftly painted. It is placed within the broader context of the life and times in Britain and the early days of white settlement in Australia; the all-too prevalent harshness and brutality is revealed. The resilience of some people, such as Buckley, to endure isolation, hardship and uncertainty in a new country is enlightening. Linnell gives the reader an insight into the Aboriginal connection with the land, their bush skills and culture. He inspires us to want to know more about the many years Buckley spent living with the Aborigines and what he learnt. History is brought to life in “Buckley’s Chance” – a book all Australians should read. – Sue, QLD, 5 stars

Anyone with an interest in the early settlement of our great land or the plight of the convicts sent here will find “Buckley’s Chance” written by Garry Linnell an interesting, well researched book. It is so well written you almost feel as though you were there. William Buckley, from an early age had a difficult life but through sheer courage and determination he managed to conquer any obstacles in his way and forge ahead regardless. He showed that when life is looking grim you can accept help and also give help to those who need it. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other on the road to survival. When William thought survival looked near impossible; when he thought he had ‘Buckley’s Chance’ he picked himself up yet again and soldiered on into the next chapter of his journey. This man’s journey into the new world, trampling through unknown territory in much harsher elements than he was used to whilst at the same time encountering a variety of animals and befriending some of the natives is a miracle. It was a treacherous journey and he survived while many others failed. William Buckley was a brave man with a strong will to live and his story was a great one to tell. Thoroughly enlightening and inspirational. – Laurel, NSW, 5 stars

When I heard Buckley’s Chance was being published, I knew it would be a must-read for me. I was not disappointed: the book is fascinating, well-written, and meticulously researched. Buckley’s Chance tells the astonishing true story of William Buckley, the (probable) inspiration behind the saying “you’ve got Buckley’s”. Although the book focuses on Buckley’s life, additional historical information is incorporated, which was very interesting and, at times, harrowing to read. Part 1 of the book follows Buckley’s journey from childhood to his time as a convict, culminating in his daring escape from the settlement. Parts 2 and 3 detail his incredible 32 years living amongst the Wadawurrung people and role liaising between the First Nations People and Europeans. The book concludes with Part 4 focusing on his later life. A unique conversational style is adopted in the book, which makes it easier to ingest the large amount of information and gives it a more engaging, personal feel. Most importantly, the book does not shy away from detailing the destruction and exploitation of the First Nations People, perpetuated by key European figures who were primarily concerned with expanding their wealth and power at all costs. An important and fascinating read. – Amanda, QLD, 5 stars

Although I knew the origin of the phrase “You’ve got Buckley’s chance” or similar phrases, I was interested to read this book about the life of William Buckley. Garry Linnell though, has not written only about William, but also has managed to provide a very rich history of the settlement of Australia by Europeans. He has put a history to many of the names that are familiar to us, such as Collins and Batman. The book certainly gives one an account of the life of William Buckley, both before and after his time with the local Aborigines, but it does so much more. An insight into to mind-set of the time is given and a reason why particular view points are held. I realised that this book not only told me more about Buckley, but also much more about the settlement of my home town of Melbourne and Port Phillip Bay. A wonderful story and one that was so easy to read and has set me on a search for more of Garry Linnell’s books! – Jane, VIC, 5 stars

From the prison hulks moored in England, to the convict ship journey to a new colony and subsequent residence, Garry Linnell has completed an epic work examining the early settlement of convict Australia. Primarily based on the life of William Buckley, the scenarios related are obviously based on enormous levels of research, with such interesting tangents involving other characters whose paths crossed with William at differing times. The narrative is expressed under the guise of William being questioned and interviewed about his experiences and is fleshed out with the interesting back-stories of other members of the fledgling colony, warts and all. It was difficult to read of the inhuman sentiments displayed to and enacted upon people considered not of ‘the Establishment’. The brutality visited upon the extremely vulnerable by the so-called civilised members of the community is sickening to comprehend, as is the self-aggrandisement and perpetuation of personal wealth by the ruling parties. Linnell includes examples of people in power who advocated for respectful acknowledgement of the original owners of the land if found to exist and more humane treatment of convicts, however, it becomes apparent how these directions were ignored. It begs the question – are we still trying to correct these direction oversights today? – Merilyn, WA, 5 stars

As an anthropologist and archaeologist I was thrilled to see the tale of William Buckley brought to life by Garry Linnell. This is no ordinary regurgitation of dry facts; the book brings to life not Buckley as a character, Linnell weaves a tale that recreates the smells, sights, tastes and discomforts of convict lives, of the Australian landscape, of loss and reinvention. Most people will know William Buckley as the escaped convict who lived with Aboriginal people for thirty years. However Linnell tells the story of before and after Buckley’s years living in and around the Wadawarrung. Most poignantly, the story of what happened to Buckley after his time with the Wadawarrung which affected me the most. The years where he was used as a go-between by the government and put into an uneasy position of trying to subdue or even merely communicate with Aboriginal people in both Victoria and Tasmania, always following someone else’s agenda, were frustrating and heartbreaking. The theme running through the book is one of two worlds which meet but never reconcile, and one man, Buckley sandwiched between them. – Amanda, SA, 5 stars


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