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Preview Reviews: Buckley’s Chance by Garry Linnell

October 28, 2019

The greatest Australian story never told – until now. Our Preview readers loved learning about William Buckley and his awe inspiring story in Garry Linnell’s amazing work Buckley’s Chance. Read their reviews here.

Buckley’s Chance by Garry Linnell is a very informative historical recollection of one mans life in early Australia. The author allows the reader to be immersed in the people of convict England, transport to Australia and life in early Australia. The descriptive text is excellent and well worth the read. An inspirational story that was hard to put down until the very end! – Karen, VIC, 4 stars

Linnell is a vivid story teller. The way in which he brings out the story of William Buckley, someone who is not normally well known. The sense of mystery is most effectively portrayed, some thirty two years later as Buckley emerges. The details are spectacular. The way in which the characters are portrayed reflect excellent research and are very thoughtful and sensitively presented. This is a text which brings culture alive, and Linnell’s ability to take the reader back into the past, in particular colonial Australia. Audiences interested in history, the past, as well as an exploration of the human experience should read Buckley’s Chance (October, 2019). – Alex, NSW, 4 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

I absolutely loved Buckley’s Chance by Garry Linnell: the story of an escaped convict living with Indigenous Australians in Victoria’s Wadawurrung Country (where I was born and raised). Being First Nations and descended from a First Fleet escapee, I was really looking forward to this book, which didn’t disappoint. Like my ancestor, he was presumed to have died in the bush ( till he initiated contact over thirty years later). It’s a fascinating read, though obviously Buckley left out details (including the existence of towns etc, like the one my forefather settled in), and told the Colonists what they wanted to hear. I’d like to think it was to try to protect his native family. As a member of the Kulin Nation, to which the Wadawurrung belong (though my mob is from the Riverina district of NSW) with a personal to the land he lived on, I was extremely interested to see how history was handled. Despite omissions (Buckley didn’t leave a lot on the record) I found it very informative and well done. Hopefully it finds it’s way into Australian classrooms… – Ayesha, NSW, 4 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

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

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

Thank you Better Reading for giving me the opportunity to read Buckley’s Chance by Garry Linnell. At first, I was concerned that I would find it a difficult and heavy book to read. However, it was surprisingly accessible and was enjoyable to read. I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in Australian history. The writing was wonderfully evocative – I felt like I was in the prison hulk with William! – Louise, VIC, 4 stars

While I had heard the phrase ‘Buckley’s chance’ I didn’t know the historical significance. I had never heard of William Buckley and how as a convict he had been sent to Australia for petty theft, and after arriving escaped, running off into the bush. William was thought to be dead but 32 years later emerged from the bush and his story of living amongst an aboriginal tribe was discovered. WOW, blew my mind… how did I not know this story? But that’s not the end William became an interpreter between European officials and the Aboriginals, again WOW! Due to the writing style of the book it took me a little to get into it. Readers who like to know more about Australia history will appreciate the research and time taken to get this story right and onto paper. Not my normal sort of book but I am pleased to have read it and am now aware of this piece of history. As I was reading, I found myself wondering why wasn’t I taught this in school? It seems to me that someone who could assimilate into a different culture and then work to bring two cultures together is a story that should be told. – Di, QLD, 3 stars

Buckley’s Chance by Garry Linnell is a highly researched Australian narrative retelling the story of William Buckley who was wrongfully transported for supposedly stealing a piece of cloth the true thief had asked him to hold. It tells the story of his voyage to Australia and his escape into the wilds near Geelong. He lived for 30 years with an aboriginal tribe, even “marrying” one of the women before returning to white settlements in Melbourne and Van Diemen’s Land. Most of the facts Garry Linnell has found in a manuscript written after the return, told to the author by Buckley himself, who was illiterate. The sections I found most riveting were those describing the lives of the aborigines, their customs and unfortunately the slaughter of many. There is a lot of detail about the lives and dealings of many of the prominent settlers in Port Phillip Bay and Hobart. John Batman in particular is not portrayed in a good light. This great detail of facts will delight the serious historian but I felt at times it distracted from Buckley’s story. A great read for lovers of Australian History. Now we know the meaning of the term “Buckley’s Chance”. – Sue, WA, 4 stars

Great story for any Australia History book lover .The book takes us on a Journey where cultures clash , rivals go to war and man who refuses to be held down and will always take a chance no matter what the consequences are.William Buckley is a 21 year old whom is a former solider sentenced to life for stealing two pieces of cloths .William’s longing for freedom that makes this story so unique. A must read for any history lover . – Karen, NSW, 4 stars

I really enjoyed reading this book. I have read quite a lot of historical books, but not a lot of Aussie ones. I stormed through this one in less than 10 days as it was both an interesting story of William’s life, but also great in it’s historical fact. The way the author gave info about what was happening in other parts of the world at the time, helps give perspective and the retelling of major events kept it well, really realistic. I love the prose (I think that’s what it’s called) that the author used – he wrote the book as if he was ‘talking’ or retelling the story to William. It moved quickly – some historical stories tend to get a bit boring but I can honestly say that wasn’t the case here. I knew little about William prior to now, no doubt enormous amounts of research went into the writing of this book and I appreciated the attention to detail and obvious factually correct information shared in a really interesting way. I’ll be re-gifting my copy to my Dad for Christmas, he is going to really enjoy the journey of Mr Buckley. – Brooke, QLD, 4 stars

Historical fiction is not a genre I usually read, but the book was well written and researched. – Cassandra, NSW, 3 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

Buckley’s Chance is a fascinating read about a very interesting character whom many people know of but really not much about. He fit more exploits and adventures than most into his lifetime! The time spent by Buckley on the Bellarine peninsula, my local neighbourhood, was of particular interest. Along with the historical interest of early European settlement and Buckley’s tales, I learnt a great deal about the local Wadawurrung people. The writing style employed by Gary Linnell is unique and somewhat unexpected for a biography but once adjusted I came to find it quite engaging and entertaining. Overall a fabulous, absorbing, educational and entertaining book which I would highly recommend. – Imogen, VIC, 4 stars

Buckley’s Chance is a saying well known to baby boomers like myself and for those generations before mine but who knew the real story behind the expression? Will the saying live on in future generations? So, when the chance to review a book with a title like this I jumped at the opportunity to learn a bit more of Australia’s past. “Buckley’s” will certainly fill in some of the gaps of Australian history with some not so pleasant details with the treatment of the poor and the young in the “Old Dart” and even more of the way in which we both misunderstood and mistreated the original occupants of our wonderful land. Garry Linnel has obviously researched thoroughly this story of William Buckley’s fascinating life from impoverished start in Britain to wars, imprisonment, astonishing life with our first nation peoples and subsequent reintegration into society. At first, I was slightly unfamiliar with Gary’s style of writing in the second person however as the story moved on, so I became more accustomed to this technique. My judgement of a book always comes down to whether I recommend it or pass it on to my reading friends/family (generations x and Y) and this one is certain to be handed on for others to enjoy and learn from. – Greg, QLD, 4 stars

In Buckley’s Chance Linnell has written a thorough and true account of Australia’s settlement. The events are not glossed over or reinvented to make them politically correct. We follow William Buckley through his army days to being convicted of stealing and instead of a death sentence a lenient judge has him transported to Australia. After a harrowing journey by ship Buckley escapes first chance he gets. After weeks on the run he is found, near death, and taken in by an aboriginal family. He goes on to spend 30 years living amongst these indigenous Australians. Linnell’s impeccably researched novel is heavy on the politics of early Port Phillip and Hobart Town. It includes the ongoing feud between John Fawkner and John Batman and the slaughter of unknown numbers of aboriginals. Narrated in the second person, a style I’ve never been keen on, it feels accusatory and mildly sarcastic. The story kept going off on tangents and jumping back and forward in time which interrupted the flow. I would have much preferred the novel was written in chronological order. 4 stars for content. 3 stars for delivery. – Veronica, NSW, 4 stars

All Aussies have heard of the aphorism you’ve got two chances, Buckley’s and none? Which mean’s no chance or it’s as good as impossible. William Buckley appears to be the source of this phrase due to his incredible survival in the bush. This is an intensive historical account of the life of William Buckley. It’s written in an unique format in the way that the author is discussing Buckley’s life with Buckley himself, it’s not your conventional historical biography. It also includes a glossy spread of over a dozen photos in the book. This is not just the story of William Buckley, there are many other characters documented who have crossed paths with Buckley in this remarkable and true story. Buckley led one of the most remarkable lives imaginable, he spent thirty-two years in the bush before he reappeared dressed in animal skins and carrying a spear! He had been living with an aboriginal tribe who regarded him as ‘the white ghost’ and he’d forgotten the English language in this time. William Buckley was originally from England where he was a bricklayer, strong and a tall height of six foot six inches. He served in the Napoleonic wars where he was wounded. Buckley was a great survivor and was later given a death sentence for stealing two pieces of cloth but instead was sentenced to transportation for life. In shackles for six months at sea while being sent to an Australian convict settlement he later escaped in 1803 into the bush and was presumed dead. Australia had become the dumping ground for England’s criminals. Over thirty years later he was pardoned but found himself caught between two cultures. An intense and extensively researched read by author Gary Linnell who is also a journalist and radio show host. – Gloria, SA, 4 stars

Buckley’s Chance by Garry Linnell is a well researched story that shines a light on the history of colonial Australia. It attempts to determine the truth about convict escapee William Buckley who lived with an Aboriginal tribe for over thirty years. I found it to be full of interesting historical facts and character portraits of Australia’s founding fathers but quite heavy going. I preferred reading it a few chapters at a time choosing titles that interested me such as “They Have Seen A Ghost” or “Gatekeeper, Author, Portrait Subject”. History buffs especially those particularly interested in the state of Victoria and its indigenous peoples would enjoy reading this book. – Janelle, NSW, 3 stars

Garry Linnell tells a fascinating story in his latest novel ‘Buckley’s Chance’. The story follows the life of William Buckley – a solider turned convict, who finds himself in the Australian bush, where he is taken in by a local Aboriginal tribe and decides to spend the next 30 years in their company, before remerging in the new Australian settlements. I don’t typically enjoy biographies, but this book was incredibly well written. The conversation between author and subject grabbed my attention from the start and I thoroughly enjoyed it is a plot device. It allowed Linnell to account for gaps in the narrative and interweave the stories of other pivotal people at the settlements. The book is evidently well researched, and this was reflected in the level of detail found in the book. I also found the historical aspects very interesting. I really enjoyed his book. – Laura, SA, 3 stars

Buckley’s Chance is an emotional journey, a profound story that was enlightening and awe inspiring. – Lydia, VIC, 4 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

Buckley’s Chance was a historically interesting read. It spoke of William’ life right from the beginning. It was interesting to read of historical events in such a way, written as though telling a story, whilst being a true story. I learned a lot from this book and found Williams life to be a very intriguing one. The book is clearly well researched and referenced. – Stacie, NSW, 3 stars

I had heard of the phrase ‘Buckley’s Chance’ before but had never stopped to wonder where it came from. I loved the explanation of the phrases at the start. Who knew that there were such fascinating people in the early settlement of our country? Buckley’s Chance was written as a conversation between the author and William Buckley. This enables the author to complete a full life story of Buckley despite the limited information available. For the early parts of Buckley’s life there was more information about the people Buckley knew, so Linnell incorporated the stories of key people at the times they crossed paths with Buckley. Once I became used to the style of writing, it was a new insight into the settlement of Australia and how the seemingly incompatible cultures could blend. – Karen, ACT, 3 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

At 6 foot 6 inches, Buckley was a man who stood out in a crowd. The Aborigines were astonished by this huge ‘white ghost’ and thought that he was one of their tribe who had returned from the dead. Among the settlers in the new colony at Port Phillip and later in Hobart the large frame of William Buckley was always noticed, although he probably preferred to be left in peace. In Buckley’s Chance, written in conversational style as if the author is discussing Buckley’s life with Buckley himself, Garry Linnell brings the story of William Buckley to life. But this is not just a book about the life of William Buckley; it is also an account of life in the Port Phillip District in the initial days of European settlement plus a description of life in Hobart Town from 1838 to 1856. Many of the characters involved in those settlements are described in detail, particularly the rivalries between John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner. The initial contact between Aborigines and white settlers is also a theme of this book. The book is therefore a useful, readable, contribution to the history of Victoria and Tasmania. – Vicki, VIC, 4 stars

3 1/2 stars. Thank you Better Reading for my ARC of this very detailed and informative historical account of the extraordinary lift of William Buckley. A man who fought against Napolean’s Army, was imprisioned in England for theft and transported to Australia, escaped upon arrival and was adopted by the Wadawurrung people for more than 30 years. His re-entry into white society during a sad period of Australian history that is not often explored. Fascinating historical fiction if you enjoy meticulous research and thorough story telling. – Pamela, QLD, 4 stars

‘Buckley Chance’ by Garry Linnell is a detailed epic that covers the life of William Buckley. William had an astonishing life journey from England to, and in, Australia. He spent 30 years with the Wadawurrung Aboriginal people. They saved William after he escaped as a convict. His language ability and knowledge of the terrain following his time with the Wadawurrung was useful for the settlers and the British Establishment in communicating with the traditional owners of the land. However, this well researched book highlights the greed, the massacres and murders in the pursuit of land, control and power. William has a difficult role living across cultures and his allegiances were questioned by some of the settlers. He did not benefit in life from his extraordinary experiences and Garry Linnell redresses this, in part, by informing of William’s adventure and legacy. Garry Linnell brings to life the brutal times in the settlement of Port Phillip Bay and Van Dieman ’s Land. He has an idiosyncratic dialogue style and sets off on tangents that are pertinent and supportive to the story. It is a highly readable and interesting history book. – Sandra, ACT, 4 stars

I can’t say I thoroughly enjoyed Buckley’s Chance but I appreciated it. Gary Linnell has written a thoroughly researched novel on a unique character in Australian history. Having grown up in the small town of Point Lonsdale, home of “Buckley’s cave”, there where many stories being spun around town about William Buckley. Reading Buckley’s Chance has given me great insight into the man and cleared up many of those stories I heard as a child. I appreciate the work gone into putting this novel together. And although it was fascinating I found it somewhat tedious and hard to pick up at times which I think was mainly due to it being written in the second person. This book is not for the light-hearted. I would recommend to those who thoroughly enjoy historical fiction. – Hannah, NT, 3 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 tells the amazing story of William Buckley, a man who should be honoured but is little known. His life almost reads fictional, it’s so astounding. While reading the book I struggled to believe how little I know of my country’s history, and how abhorrent much of it was. I found this story, based on factual information, truly astounding and moving and will be encouraging friends and family to broaden their knowledge as well. – Jodie, WA, 4 stars

Who has never heard the aphorism: ‘You’ve got two chances – Buckley’s and none”? Award-winning Australian journalist and author, Garry Linnell’s third book follows the incredible life journey of the extraordinary William Buckley, fairly certainly the Buckley to which this refers. He writes in the second person, addressing his story to Buckley himself. It’s quickly clear, from the thorough end-notes, bibliography and references provided, that Linnell’s research is extensive and meticulous. The level of detail is mostly absorbing, if occasionally tedious. He enhances his interesting text with a map, sixteen pages of colour plates and a comprehensive index. From evocative descriptions of his Napoleonic War experience, the Britain that Buckley leaves, through his journey as a convict on the Calcutta, his 32 years with the Wadawurrung people, and his re-entry into white “civilisation”, emerges an opportunist skilled in both the art of disappearing and of fitting in. While more of Buckley on country and less 19thC politics would have been good, this is still a fascinating piece of historical fiction. – Marianne, NSW, 4 stars

Buckley’s Chance is more an historical text book than a novel based around historical facts as I first thought it would be. Although very interesting, it is not a book I would pick to read on the beach knowing about it’s contents after reading. William Buckley, a convict, escapes into the bush after being transported to New Holland and centres mostly around Victoria and Tasmania. He survives with help from Aboriginal clans. He lives with them for more than 30 years, learning their languages and customs. He is thought to be a ghost and is treated like an elder. He eventually leaves the clan and heads back to ‘civilisation’ where he is used as a go between the whites and the natives. This is a dark time in our early history which saw the near extinction of our first people. Garry Linnell has given the reader lots of facts with many people and events overlapping. He ‘talks to’ and ‘questions’ William throughout, which I thought an interesting touch. Lots of facts to take in with lengthy prologue, end notes and bibliography. Beautifully written and thought provoking but not for someone looking for light reading. – Andrew, ACT, 4 stars

Not my sort of book to read but if you love history then it would be a great read. Has lots of information about the character and places also has strong backing characters. Very heavy reading but over all a good read if you like this type of story. – Beth, TAS, 4 stars

“Buckley’s Chance” is the biography of the man who inspired the slang term. It’s also a history of 80 or so years in the earliest days of settling Australia. Linnell hangs his story off Buckley’s biography. There’s plenty to fascinate in Buckley’s story. Linnell narrates as though he’s talking to William Buckley himself. This is occasionally irritating, but it’s also an effective mechanism to subtly signal to the reader when Linnell is speculating rather than relating facts. This is written as a story, rather than a history text, and is easily digestible as a result. There’s a fair bit of general history in here too. Linnell takes short detours into relevant matters such as the general treatment of Aborigines (as they were then known) and the governance of Australia. This is a vivid re-telling of history. However, Buckley’s life story is interesting, but I didn’t feel that he really came to life. Still, I was interested throughout this and finished with a much better sense of the time period. I enjoyed it, even without an intense interest in this period. Linnell combines good writing with detailed research to produce a highly readable biography come history. – Lorraine, ACT, 4 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

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

After being transported to Australia, William Buckley escapes the settlement in Victoria he has been sent to. He is thought to have died, his chance of surviving, Buckley’s or None!! Over thirty years later a man walks out of the bush. He has forgotten English, but is nonetheless unmistakable as William Buckley. He has cheated the odds and survived, living with the Wadawurrung people for all this time. By centring the tale of William Buckley in the great land grab of Victoria, we see the true motive to settlement, to make as much money as possible from the land, degradation be damned. The degradation of the land and its people. I enjoyed reading this account of early settlement history where many of the names of Melbourne {like Batman and Fawkner} are revealed as truly unlikeable and the myth of terra nullius conveniently grows. If you enjoy Australian history then read this. More people need to know the tales of us. – Daniella, QLD, 4 stars

“Buckley’s Chance” is written in quite a unique manner, as though it’s a letter penned to the main character, telling him his own story. This book covers the lifespan of the “Wild White Man” in a memorable retelling of one mans remarkable lifetime. The amount of work and research that has gone into this book is quite incredible, the author having an obvious passion for Australian history and it shows in the way he has carefully and fully articulated the re-telling of this historic Australian figure. A fascinating read that crosses oceans and cultures in a historic time where life was anything but easy. This is a must read for any history buff, especially those who are drawn to Australian History! You’ve got Buckley’s Chance of finding a more informative book on this particular character! – Belinda, VIC, 3 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

Swept away back to the days of convicts and unbelievable injustices, this story has it all – Sally, VIC, 4 stars

The story is William Buckley set into 3 parts pre during and post life with Aborigines. I thought that book was telling a story about William yet each chapter is somewhat disjointed from the next and the narrative is like listening to an interview with William. Didn’t enjoy it despite wanting too. There could have been so much potential yet it fell flat. But this book in between library reference book and a podcast featuring William. – Katarzyna, VIC, 1 star

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

I feel bad…. As a lover of aussie historical history I couldn’t get into this book. I blame myself and not the book. I have been ill and not in the right mind to read it properly. I did manage to read close to the end but don’t remember much and need to start again. I do plan to reread especially because I work with Aboriginal kids and want to know more about William. I think William walking into bushland and reappearing 30 years down the track fascinating. Sorry that I can’t give a positive review – Maria, SA, 1 star

 

 

 


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