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Platypus or Platypii: The Naturalist’s Daughter by Tea Cooper

January 23, 2018

the-naturalist-s-daughter-1Two times. Two women. And one really confusing animal.

Tea Cooper’s newest exploration into historical fiction gives us the beautifully poignant The Naturalist’s Daughter. If you thought there couldn’t be a whole novel written about the platypus, think again. The strange Australian creature sparked the biggest scientific controversy of the nineteenth century – the classification of the platypus. The Naturalist’s Daughter isn’t all dry science, though. It’s more than that – it’s about two women from two times, connected through one woman’s act of kindness, and sparking an investigation into a sketchbook that might just shake what people thought they knew…

The novel spans two time frames, skipping elegantly back into the past. In 1808, Agnes Banks, NSW, Rose Winton spends her days by the banks of the river with her father, esteemed naturalist Charles Winton. They have an incredibly close relationship, spending their time watching for the slightest ripple of water that might indicate a closeby platypus. Charles Winton has dedicated himself to the study of the strange animal, and Rose, in her childhood adoration of her father, helps him day after day, sketching and taking notes.

Jump forward to 1908, where Tamsin Alleyn works hard at the Public Library of New South Wales. She’s preparing for an opening exhibition, when they get the call from the Hunter Valley. An old sketchbook has turned up in the home of a widow, and it seems like it could be very valuable. It’s to do with Charles Winton, and Tamsin goes immediately, only to find that the widow has died just a day before she arrives.

Who Tamsin does find, however, is Shaw Everdene, a young antiquarian bookseller and lawyer. There’s attraction between the two instantly, but Tamsin becomes more and more suspicious of his intentions towards both her and the sketchbook. He seems to be less than forthcoming on what he wants to do with the sketchbook, but Tamsin reluctantly works with him to find out the mysteries of the sketchbook…

The deeper they delve, the more confused they get – it’s clear that the sketchbook holds the key to unlocking one of science’s major controversies, but new discoveries rise up from the past with irrevocable consequences…

1606The Naturalist’s Daughter is heartwarming and emotional, blending historical fiction with mystery. Add to that two women, Rose and Tamsin, who are incredibly strong willed and powerful, determined for their gender not to hold them back. Cooper does a great job of depicting Indigenous life at that time, clearly well researched. The Naturalist’s Daughter is perfect for fans of The Birdman’s Wife and Remarkable Creatures, and will leave you desperate for Cooper’s next book.

About the Author

Tea Cooper lives in a stone cottage on one hundred acres of bushland, just outside the time-warp village of Wollombi, NSW Australia. When she isn’t writing, Tea can be found haunting the local museum or chatting to the locals, who provide her with a never-ending source of inspiration.

Grab a copy here and read Tea’s article on the classification of the platypus


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