Your Preview Verdict: Sisters of Freedom by Mary-Anne O’Connor

Your Preview Verdict: Sisters of Freedom by Mary-Anne O’Connor

A passionate tale of three sisters as they strive for freedom and independence and follow their hearts to unexpected places, from a master storyteller. For readers of Fiona McIntosh, Nicole Alexander and Natasha Lester.

Sydney, Christmas, 1901. Federation has been achieved but Australian women are yet to gain the right to vote in their new nation’s elections and have a say in the laws that govern them.

Bolshy, boisterous Frankie Merriweather is a fervent advocate for women’s rights, determined to dedicate herself to the cause, never marrying or becoming a mother. She can’t understand her artistic sister Ivy, who wants a life of ease and beauty with her soon-to-be fiance, law student Patrick Earle.

Meanwhile, their married sister Aggie volunteers in an orphanage, decrying the inequality of Australia’s social classes … and longing to hold a baby in her arms.

When an accident takes Ivy, wounded and ill, into the violent and lawless zone of the Hawkesbury River, a year of change begins. Ivy’s burgeoning friendship with her saviour Riley Logan, a smuggler, and his sister, the poverty-stricken but valiant Fiona, will alter the lives of all three women forever.

Read some great reviews from our Preview readers here:

Sisters of Freedom is a fabulous story of three sisters, who are three very different women but all fighting towards the same cause – equality for women. This historical fiction is extremely well written and takes the reader back 120 years to experience a harder time. I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Kate, VIC, 5 Stars

A story about women’s rights at the time of Federation in Australia, told from the perspective of three close-knit sisters, each one seeking the freedom to choose their destiny in their personal life whilst Australia debates the destiny of its female population. Marice, NSW, 5 Stars

Sisters of Freedom is a really enjoyable and easy read. Set at the turn of the 20th Century it follows a family that has three very different daughters. It is an interesting time and the story addresses many issues still very relevant today. Mary-Anne O’Connor manages to skilfully weave a great fictional story through real historical events very smoothly. It also has strong female protagonists which is always a plus for me. For anyone who loves historical fiction mixed with a great romance, this is a must. For me, it was a fabulous holiday read and I would highly recommend it. Virginia, NSW, 5 Stars

Loved this book from the first line till the last, beautifully told story of the early women of Australia who helped to form the laws and freedoms we have today!  Mary-Anne O’Connor gets it right every time! Another Classic Australian Story. Karina, NSW, 5 Stars

Sisters Of Freedom by Mary-Anne O’Connor is an easy and enjoyable read. It tells the beautiful story about the three Merriweather sisters, Aggie, Frankie and Ivy. All very different and each with their own goal. It is a story about love, family and the fight for equality of women and the right to vote. I loved how this fictional story was based on real events and it was definitely an eye-opener finding out how women and children were treated back then. I also loved the author’s note which included major milestone dates in history. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and am looking forward to reading more from Mary-Anne O’Connor. Mary, VIC, 5 Stars

It was great to read a book set in Australia at the turn of the century: it’s not a setting I’ve seen a lot of before. The descriptions were really vivid and I could easily picture the scenery. Given the tagline “Love, motherhood, the vote … could they have it all?” on the front cover, I had thought this book might have been more focussed on the suffragette movement, rather than that being a background plot, but I thoroughly enjoyed the story even though it was quite different to what I expected. The characters were all very real people to me, and I was really worried about their safety at times! This book took me through the emotional wringer at times but also had some great funny moments. The ending was very satisfying and left me smiling. I highly recommend this book. Helen, VIC, 5 Stars

A fast-paced, page-turning story opening at the time of Australia’s new-formed Federation in 1901. Australian women are not yet able to vote and contribute to the way the laws are governed but there are indications that that is all about to change and not everyone is happy about it. Aggie, Frankie and Ivy the Merriweather sisters have comfortable lives living at Kuranda, a beautiful home in Hornsby NSW. They are fiercely loyal to each other however all have differing views of their individual paths in life. On the day of her eighteenth birthday, Ivy, the youngest of the sisters, makes a decision that will change the lives of the people around her irrevocably. Riley Logan, a smuggler and his sister Fiona live on the lawless Hawkesbury river and know only too well the hardships and dangers that are present and ultimately deadly for the unwary. On one of his trips on the river, Riley discovers something that he must protect with his life until he can return it to its rightful place. An enjoyable and engrossing read which offers us a snapshot of a bygone era that was the foundations of what we know today. The Merriweather family, Riley Logan and his family have remained with me long after I closed the book. Sharon, VIC, 5 Stars

I do not read much historical fiction but I absolutely loved Mary-Anne O’Connor’s Sisters of Freedom. The setting and spirited characters had me engaged from the very first page. I absolutely loved the three Merriweather sisters who were all very different but all strong, fearless and determined in the own right. At the beginning of the book, you meet the three sisters who each have a different trajectory, there is the defiant and willful Frankie, who is an advocate for women’s rights. She was full of character and had me laughing on more than one occasion due to her antics. Then there is the responsible, maternal Aggie who is married and works at an orphanage and longs to be a mother; and the young, beautiful and vibrant Ivy who is the hearts desire of Patrick Earle, a law student who comes from a well to do family. The story unfolds after a near-fatal accident involving Ivy at her 18th birthday where she is left badly wounded and ill. This event leads the sisters on a journey filled with intense passion, which leads to a climax that is thrilling yet filled with impossible choices that pull at the heartstrings. I can’t recommend this book more, it is a beautiful story that kept me captivated to the very last page. Wendy, WA, 5 Stars

What an inspirational book. Three sisters, three journeys, one goal. I really enjoyed their story and was a part of it. Quite relevant today even though it starts in 1901. Women have few to little standings or rights in society. The Hawkesbury was a wild untamed place, with little access, it had its own code of conduct and pushed the law to the limit. Social class was fervently upheld, and a woman’s place was in the home. Welcome the Merriweather sisters. Elegant, beautiful and full of spirit. These passionate three seek freedom and independence, for womanhood, but each has their own heart desires. Karrie, NSW, 5 Stars

Aggie, Frankie and Ivy – three very different sisters whose passion for life, love and women’s rights in the early days of Federation ensures there’s never a dull moment with the Merriweathers and their friends. An accident on Ivy’s 18th birthday will change their lives forever when she is rescued by river rogue, Riley, and meets his impoverished sister, Fiona, and her young family. The story takes the sisters from their comfortable home on Sydney’s upper north shore to lawless brutality beyond the banks of the Hawkesbury River, to the steps of the Town Hall and Parliament House. Frankie is frustrated when the local newspaper isn’t enthusiastic about the feminist themes in the articles she submits, has no intentions to marry and can’t understand younger sister Ivy’s dreams of a life of ease and beauty. Married Aggie is longing for motherhood and volunteers at a local orphanage which has its own challenges. Like their mother, they are eager for women to be given the vote “so we can make laws to protect each other”. The reality of Fiona’s situation will emphasise how important this is. Sisters of Freedom shows how far we’ve come but still have a long way to go. Sarah, NSW, 5 Stars

I recently received a copy of Sisters of Freedom by Mary-Anne O’Connor, thanks to #BRPreview Better Reading and Harper Collins Australia. The year is 1901 in the new federation of Australia. Enter the Merriweather family. There are three sisters Frankie, Aggie and Ivy their personalities as different as their hair colours, all have different interests and aspirations for their futures but are unified by their passion to fight for women’s rights and their desires to change laws to permit women a right to vote. It’s a passionate tale of love, fighting for freedom and acceptance in a man’s world. When a mishap occurs to one of the sisters, it changes their perspective of what they want their individual futures to be. It’s an inspiring tale of fighting for what you believe in no matter how impossible it might seem as it has the potential to change the future for the greater good for all. I loved it and found it very brave and motivating. Thanks for the opportunity to read this powerful novel. Hirell, NSW, 5 Stars

A romantic novel set in Sydney in 1902 about the Merriweather girls; Aggie, Frankie and Ivy. Australia at the end of 1901 has just experienced Federation and women want the right to vote! This novel is superbly written and revolves around the lives of three sisters. Their stories intertwine with love, needs and wants for each other. Frankie is passionate about women’s rights, Aggie wants a family and Ivy is like a dragonfly drawn to the water. Sisters of Freedom is a great story and the struggle for women’s rights is still topical today; while we have the vote the injustices against woman still continue with stereotypical attitudes and domestic violence seemingly out of control. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and couldn’t put it down once I started it. I could relate to the characters and the views held by society at the time. Superb story about the relationships between sisters, their love and courage and one that will touch your heart! Larelle, QLD, 5 Stars

1901 in Australia, Federation has been achieved. Australian women in NSW are still agitating to gain the vote. Three sisters, Aggie, Frankie and Ivy Merriweather, though close, are about as different as sisters can be. And that doesn’t just mean in looks but in what they want from life. Aggie who is married volunteers at the orphanage and longs to have a baby of her own. But it is not happening for her and Robert. She also is concerned about women’s rights and the differences between the rich and the less fortunate and the way they are treated. Frankie is a passionate advocate for women’s rights. Dedicated to the cause, she has no intention of letting any man have control of her life. Ivy, the youngest, wants to marry law student Patrick Earle. But at her eighteenth birthday party tragedy strikes and changes all three women’s lives. Events also introduce the reader to Riley Logan, a man of the Hawkesbury River, his pregnant sister Fiona and her twins Annie and Tricia. Riley has deep concerns about the way Fiona is treated by her husband George but Fiona refuses to admit anything is wrong. For those of us who live these days, this is a staggering look back at the past and how women were treated as chattels by husbands and with no rights of their own. No wonder women campaigned so hard for things to change! Set against this backdrop the Merriweather sisters captured my attention from the start. More than one man will change their views about women as the story progresses. But there are also those who display the worst of mankind. I adored this book. It certainly engaged the emotions and there were definitely some tears, more than once, on the way through. Anger and outrage as well. I was right there living it all with these characters. One of those books I just wanted to keep reading every chance I got. What I also liked was the timeline given at the end from 1890 when the first women’s trade union was established to 2020. It gives a picture of the changes and how long it took for some of those changes to come about. Staggering when you think about some of them. A highly recommended read that is thought-provoking and provides plenty of gratitude to those who went before and paved the way for change from those of us born later. Just loved this engaging historical novel from start to finish and would highly recommend it. Dale, NSW, 5 Stars

Three sisters of very different characteristics, emotionally and physically are the central theme of this story set at the height of the Women’s Rights movement in Australia. Ivy, artistic and romantic. Aggie, married, settled but childless. Frankie, full of enthusiasm for change and for women to be at the forefront. Set along a river that will lead them to vast changes in their lives. Loves and friendships are strained and tested when Ivy becomes entangled with a boatman that saves her but changes her and her sisters forever. Wendy, SA, 5 Stars

This is the first novel I have read by Mary-Anne O’Connor but it most certainly won’t be the last. What a talented writer she is. I quickly came to know, then love, all the main characters. The words just flow on the page. I was able to visualise the scenes as they unfolded, like I was watching a movie or actually there as an observer. I found I could identify with each of the sisters. Frankie advocating for women’s rights, Aggie railing against the inequality between the social classes whilst longing to be a mother and Ivy just wanting to marry the love of her life. I stayed up late into the night reading this tale as I couldn’t bring myself to put it down. I advise readers to keep a box of tissues handy as a few parts had me bawling my eyes out. Maree, QLD, 5 Stars

Sisters of Freedom is a beautifully written family saga set in Sydney in 1901. The Merriweather family are passionate advocates for the rights of women including the right to vote. This passion ignites all the three sisters and their mother and this sets the background for the story. It was very interesting and informative to read about the suffragette movement in Australia in 1901. The Merriweather girls, Aggie, Frankie and Ivy are all very different but share their family love. My favourite is Frankie. Frankie is a young lady who lives and breathes the women’s rights movement. It consumes her every thought and early in the book she says that she will never marry as she will always dedicate herself to the cause. As the story progresses, Frankie realises that she can have a husband and still be a women’s rights contributor – as long as she marries the right man. The Merriweather girls experience lots of troubles and good times including the inability to have a baby, weddings, parties, orphans, violence and death but most of all love. Mary-Anne O’Connor has written a beautiful story full of everything life can throw at you but with an authentic historical Australian outlook. Maree, VIC, 5 Stars

What a timely tale is Sisters of Freedom. In 1901 Australian women were fighting for the right to vote. On that occasion, they succeeded but women were still treated as possessions and married women were unable to perform roles as teachers. Here we are 120 years later and Australian women are still fighting for equal pay, respect and equal opportunity. How will the current struggle end? Mary-Anne O’Connor has presented a fabulous family story with strong female characters aplenty with a supporting cast of respectful supportive men. The setting is Sydney and the beautiful Hawkesbury River and there are plentiful heroes in this passionate exciting tale. The question in this book is still resoundingly ‘Can they have it all?’ I really enjoyed Sisters of Freedom and would recommend it for fans of historical fiction, romance, adventure and sisterhood. Thanks to Better Reading and Harlequin for an advance copy. Karan, VIC, 5 Stars

This book had me captivated hook, line and sinker! Every character was rich and authentic. Each character’s individual circumstances, strengths and personalities were so engaging that it was difficult to put the book down. Ivy, Frankie and Aggie shared a beautiful sisterly bond and their love and support for each other and those around them was remarkable and powerful. The story covers themes of love, loyalty, loss, grief, domestic violence, poverty but also strength, hope, resilience and courage. I really enjoyed the added element of the history of the women’s rights movement and an insight into the harsh realities of life for women of different classes in the early 1900s. Bree, NSW, 5 Stars

I am so lucky that I was able to “Preview read” Sisters of Freedom by Mary-Anne O’Connor. Thank you Better Reading and Harlequin Australia for this opportunity. Where do I start with saying how much I loved this book? I didn’t want to sleep, I didn’t want to work, I just wanted to spend every moment devouring this Australian Historical Fiction. The story is set in the early 1900s on and around the Hawkesbury River, NSW. Three sisters, a fight for woman’s right to vote, outback hardships, domestic violence, the separation of class, infertility, and most importantly love are just some of the topics covered in this book. My favourite however was the story reflecting what one does as it is expected by society and what one wants to do when following their heart. This story has it all. This is the first Mary-Anne O’Connor book I have read and after reading Sisters of Freedom I am keen to read her many other titles. Ally, TAS, 5 Stars

What a wonderfully written book. 5 stars!! I love the historical aspect of this book – the rights of women in Australia including the right to vote (something we take for granted now). It was very interesting reading about the suffragettes in early 1900s Australia. I just wanted to keep reading this book and see what happens for each character. I felt like I was there and experiencing everything the characters experienced. Enjoyed this story from start to finish. Would highly recommend this book and this author. Michelle, VIC, 5 Stars

Historical novel set in the Hawkesbury River valley in the early 1900s. Three sisters of different dispositions and of a privileged background become indebted to a struggling boatsman running cargo on the Hawkesbury River. As a result, the lives of the three sisters are altered forever. The book offers an insight into the lawlessness and violence suffered by those forging a life along the river. It also enlightens us on the rights of women and the suffragette movement. A great read – love, loyalty and revenge. Annie, NSW, 5 Stars

Sisters of Freedom is an exquisitely written family saga set in Sydney in 1901. Federation has been achieved peacefully and the Merriweather family are supporters of the suffragette movement. The three sisters Aggie, Frankie and Ivy along with their mother Harriet are strong independent thinking women wanting and expecting different journeys through life. Aggie is married and volunteers at an orphanage, Frankie is the most outspoken, determined never to marry and fight for women’s rights and Ivy, the youngest, sees beauty everywhere and dreams of marriage and children. However, a significant incident on Ivy’s birthday sets the path for a different trajectory for all three sisters. They are all determined to help the plight of fellow women, achieve the right to vote, stop domestic violence, end the terrible cycle of poverty and stop women from being seen as the property of their husbands. Frankie hopes that women will have significant positions in parliament to have their voices heard. I just loved this thought-provoking historical novel covering one year in the lives of the Merriweather family. Ilona, VIC, 5 Stars

I started this book and found it slow going, but then I found myself involved and cheering on, hard to imagine how far we have come. Have recommended this book to several people for inspiration. Lynette, NSW, 4 Stars

A gorgeous family drama set in the early 1900s, soon after the federation of Australia. The three Merriweather sisters live a charmed life in their wealthy surroundings. They are keen supporters of the suffragette movement. When their youngest sister, Ivy, has an accident and is transported to the Riverlands, they start to learn more about the darker side of life when they are exposed to poverty, crime and the impacts these have on women and children. The author manages to effortlessly weave together these serious themes into a beautiful story filled with warmth, heart and sisterly love. I loved following the journey of each character and seeing each of them grow through their experiences. I also enjoyed learning more about the suffragette movement and have a greater appreciation for their hard-won victories. If it wasn’t for these brave women, women today would not be able to enjoy the freedoms that we do. Thank you to Better Reading and the publisher for an ARC of this book. Angela, VIC, 4 Stars

A very enjoyable book about the relationships of three sisters and their experiences. The sisters each have individual personalities that evolve throughout the story. Each one of them learns what they are interested in and what is unique and special to each of them. As they pursue their individuality they also recognise the special ties and love they have for each other and their family members. Heather, SA, 4 Stars

Sisters of Freedom is a beautifully crafted novel focusing on the three Merriweather sisters in the era of Federation. We follow the sisters as they fall in love, struggle to achieve their dreams due to social constrictions, fight for women’s rights and realise that life isn’t always how you have been told. The sisters’ eyes are opened in more ways than one. O’Connor has created characters with great strength and depth and scenery so descriptive that you feel that you are back in 1901 with the sisters, feeling what they are feeling, celebrating their joys and mourning their losses. I can definitely see this novel being made into a movie. This is my first book by Mary-Anne O’Connor but it will definitely not be my last. Mel, NSW, 4 Stars

Sisters of Freedom, centred around women’s right to vote and set against a beautiful Australian backdrop, is perfect for lovers of historical fiction. The author, Mary-Anne O’Connor, takes an admirable approach when discussing a woman’s right to vote through her characters, both men and women, without resorting to a one-sided point of view for either sex. In fact, O’Connor makes sure to include mixed opinions of both sexes regarding the vote, which comes across as powerful and helps shape the personalities of her main characters. Romance and family are interwoven into the historical subject matter with many likeable characters. There were at times elements of predictability to the narrative, although there are some twists at crucial moments and the novel was overall enjoyable to read. The Author’s Note at the end of the book is an interesting and insightful touch. Emma, ACT, 4 Stars

What a resplendent and memorable story about the spirit, courage and strength of women Mary-Anne O’Connor has crafted with Sisters of Freedom. O’Connor has cleverly entwined themes of Australian suffragettes fighting for the right to vote with a charming, old-fashioned romance novel, elevating it into an intelligent historical narrative — showcasing the trailblazers who came before us and their sacrifices to ensure future generations were afforded the freedom of choice and a better way of life. The story is imbued with the vividly captured backdrop of Hornsby, Sydney 1901, and the long, snaking path of the lush Hawkesbury River. The Merriweather sisters, Aggie, Frankie and Ivy are strong but very different in nature. All three are on different paths when we meet them. A near-fatal accident changes everything on Ivy’s eighteenth birthday, and the story unfolds amid fiery passion, escalating into a finale that is breathtaking in its romantic heart and thrilling with its impossible choices. I loved the plucky, fearless nature of the three sisters, with each one fighting individual conundrums even as their love for each other remained resolute. A tenderly told, moving tale of the enduring female spirit that resonates, leaving you awash with pride. Linda, QLD, 4 Stars

Sisters of Freedom is a story of three sisters and is as much a story about relationships as it is about standing up for what you believe. The sisters, all very different, follow their passion for women’s rights with all their hearts and the themes of love, loss and loyalty shine throughout. I enjoyed the historical aspect of the book and how, when reflecting on today, things have changed for the better. Jodie, WA, 4 Stars

It is 1901, the year of Federation. Modern Australia is born and three sisters fight for the right to follow their own dreams. For Frankie, it is the right to vote. She is a passionate advocate for women’s rights. For Ivy, it is the right to love and work, and follow her own, less activist, path. And for Aggie, it is the right to have a child. Set on, and around, the Hawkesbury River, Sisters of Freedom is a fabulous and evocative read. I enjoyed the intertwining stories of the three sisters, their loves and hopes and dreams. It reminded me of one of my favourite book series, Little Women, only transported Downunder, and with one less sister! I loved the Merriweathers as much as I have always loved the March sisters. I was totally captivated. Daniella, QLD, 4 Stars

Part Historical fiction, part feminist treatise, Sisters of Freedom by Mary-Anne O’Connor, is a perfect read for the moment we are experiencing with #metoo and the power divide in Canberra. The appalling treatment of women is not a new experience and sometimes we need to look back to move forward. As an amateur historian and rabid genealogist, this book definitely appealed to me but I think it will resonate with many women. The story revolves around three feisty sisters who have academic parents and is set at the beginning of Federation. Based around Sydney the story takes us to the wild Hawkesbury region where even as late as the early 1900s, people were living by their wits and not much else. Frankie can’t imagine being tied down to a man and is a passionate suffragist heavily influenced by Vida Goldstein. Older sister Aggie works in an orphanage, desperately wanting a child of her own and fighting for the rights of unwed mothers. Younger sister Ivy wants a peaceful, happy life with her soon to be fiance and downplays her courage and intelligence in comparison to her sisters. All in all, Sisters of Freedom is a rollicking good read. Katrina, VIC, 4 Stars

This was a very well written story about the fight for women’s rights in the 1900s. It made me realise how far we have come, but sadly also how far we still have to go. I really enjoyed this dramatic historic book and was drawn into the suspense of the story and very much liked the characters. Thanks Better Reading and Harlequin Australia for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. Meg, SA, 4 Stars

I really enjoyed this book. I liked the way the author described life in the Sydney region at the time of Federation. I love books with strong female characters such as this one. The three main characters, the Merriweather sisters, were well developed and the story showed the struggles for rich and poor through their eyes. A well researched and written book. Annette, SA, 4 Stars

Sisters of Freedom is a great read! This historical family novel is set in the time of Federation in Australia. Women’s rights were non-existent and life could be rough and tough for many. The three privileged Merriweather sisters were passionate advocates for change and they were determined to change the laws. This novel does have romantic twists and turns but I felt the focus remains on the fight for change. I pondered on the similarities between then and now … the fight for equal acceptance and recognition still continues! Strong and interesting characters, a solid base of historical fact and delightful settings lend to an easy read but one that does invite contemplation and packs a bit of a punch! Kerrie, NSW, 4 Stars

The story takes place around Hawkesbury River in 1902 which is the year that Non- Indigenous women were granted the vote. Central to the story are three sisters from a privileged background, sensible Aggie, socially aware and longing for a baby, political Frankie who wants to change the many injustices that control women’s lives and sweet Ivy who is content with her place in that world. After a dreadful accident the lives of the sisters and their family change in many ways because of the events that follow. This is a good read. The characters and the landscape are really well-drawn. It feels like you are there with them. Kerry, WA, 4 Stars

A good combination of family matters, love stories and the fight for the right to vote. I certainly was not aware that women, once married, were not allowed to teach anymore. Romance novels usually use the opposite attracts guideline and this works beautifully as the 3 sisters and their love interests are so different. Frankie and her “swearing” is endearing and her independence is too important to her until….. Lovely, naive Ivy and Aggie, the married sister round up the different types. The story goes along nicely with some harsh insights on how women and children were treated back then. This was a very enjoyable book, even for me, who usually prefers crime and mystery. Sandra, NSW, 4 Stars

The story begins at the end of 1901 in Sydney after Federation but before Australian women have achieved the vote. It centres around the three very different daughters of a family living a secure and comfortable life in Hornsby, NSW. The sisters’ support for the women’s rights movement establishes the main theme of the novel. On Ivy’s 18th birthday a serious accident leads the family to be exposed to the less secure world of the poorer communities of the Hawkesbury River. The central theme is further explored here with scenes depicting the inequality of women’s lives during this time and the harshness, brutality and dangers faced by many. Initially this seemed to be a light historical romance, not my favourite genre. However, the weaving of an interesting time in Australia’s history, and in particular the women’s rights movement, with a family saga made this an enjoyable and thought-provoking read. I reflected upon the changes for women since the early 1900s such as: not being considered a man’s property once married, can still work once married, able to be university graduates, though in other parts it made me realise there is more needed to achieve total equality, especially in the context of the #metoo movement. Regina, NSW, 4 Stars

This historical romance is set in NSW during the early 20th century, just as Australia reaches nationhood. Three sisters, also on the dawn of their adulthood, become involved in the votes for women movement as they navigate the complexities of identity, independence, relationships and how they fit into the wider world. The book begins like an Australian version of Little Women, with feisty Frankie, the most competitive and ambitious of the sisters, playing out the role of Jo March. Aggie, the oldest sister, is already married and reminded me of Meg. She is a volunteer helper in an orphanage but longs for her own child. The youngest sister, Ivy (Amy March perhaps) is the most romantic, finding pleasure in art and the beauty of nature. Their world seems secure and comfortable until, on her 18th birthday, Ivy has a serious accident– an event that introduces the family to their poorer ‘down river’ neighbours, and changes all their lives. The story is well told and the characters attractive and interesting (apart from the odd villain). The sisters face threats to their safety, challenges with romance, and difficult decisions about purpose in life. I cried twice and smiled at the ending – so what’s not to like? A feel-good holiday read. Susan, VIC, 4 Stars

Sisters of Freedom is a historical fiction read about three feminist sisters angered at the laws that govern the lives of Australian women at the time of Federation, whilst at the same time navigating their own personal battles. A reflection of where women’s rights have been and motivation to continue the good fight, making the reader realise how change can positively influence one’s life. Nicole, VIC, 4 Stars

Sisters of Freedom by Mary-Anne O’Connor is a dramatic account of a momentous period in Australian history. Federation has been achieved and positive signs for a united future are emerging but women are still second class citizens, expected to follow social expectations with very little power. In 1902, Australia gave the vote to non-Indigenous women over 21 and this novel fleshes out the period immediately before and after. Aggie, Frankie and Ivy are sisters, different in looks and personality. Their stories intertwine as they negotiate friendship, love, family and hope of study and career to live a “life that matters”. Our girls give voice to and experience the attitudes and opinions of the society around them both their own comfortable middle class and the salt of the earth (or river) workers. Social issues such as infertility, domestic violence, sexual assault and general misogyny are graphically explored lending poignancy to the tale. Love appears in unusual places with the usual dramatic twists and turns…..but all resolves by the finale and hope is the beacon lighting the way. I found the historical context well researched and was mildly interested in the fate of our protagonists. Thanks to Better Reading for the preview copy. Lesley, QLD, 3 Stars

This is an evocative, immersive historical fiction, and I love reading stories by Australian women about Australian women. The book was richly detailed, and the writer’s use of real historical figures like Vida Goldstein added to the overall effect of a thoroughly researched and descriptive story. The historical timeline at the end was interesting and great for context. I fully believed in and felt the connections between the characters, and even though there were quite a few stereotypes, you can’t help but care for these characters and it is still a novel you want to lose yourself in. Women fighting for their rights with so much hope 120 years ago is so inspiring, but also bittersweet given the current political climate and the infuriatingly slow pace of change. In this regard, the book manages to transport you fully to another time, but also be startlingly relevant to today’s world. Katrina, TAS, 3 Stars


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          Publisher details

          Sisters of Freedom
          Mary-Anne O’Connor
          HQ Fiction
          Fiction, Historical Fiction
          18 May, 2022


          Sydney, Christmas, 1901. Federation has been achieved but Australian women are yet to gain the right to vote in their new nation's elections and have a say in the laws that govern them.

          Bolshy, boisterous Frankie Merriweather is a fervent advocate for women's rights, determined to dedicate herself to the cause, never marrying or becoming a mother. She can't understand her artistic sister Ivy, who wants a life of ease and beauty with her soon-to-be fiance, law student Patrick Earle.

          Meanwhile, their married sister Aggie volunteers in an orphanage, decrying the inequality of Australia's social classes ... and longing to hold a baby in her arms.

          When an accident takes Ivy, wounded and ill, into the violent and lawless zone of the Hawkesbury River, a year of change begins. Ivy's burgeoning friendship with her saviour Riley Logan, a smuggler, and his sister, the poverty-stricken but valiant Fiona, will alter the lives of all three women forever.
          Mary-Anne O'Connor
          About the author

          Mary-Anne O'Connor

          Bestselling author Mary-Anne O'Connor has a combined arts education degree with specialties in environment, music and literature. After a successful marketing career she now focuses on writing fiction and non-fiction as well as public speaking. Mary-Anne lives in a house overlooking her beloved bushland in northern Sydney with her husband Anthony, their two sons Jimmy and Jack, and their very spoilt dog Saxon. Her previous novels are Gallipoli Street (2015), Worth Fighting For (2016), War Flower (2017), In a Great Southern Land (2019), Where Fortune Lies (2020) and Sisters of Freedom (2021).

          Books by Mary-Anne O'Connor


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