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 is a much-loved, bestselling Australian author who delivers fabulous, richly imagined historical fiction novels that are consistent hits here at Better Reading. Her novels In a Great Southern Land, Gallipoli Street and Worth Fighting have all made their way onto our previous Top 100 lists, while her last novel, Where Fortune Lies, delighted readers with its gorgeous, rugged landscapes and riveting storytelling.
Now, O’Connor returns with Sisters of Freedom, a passionate tale of three sisters striving for freedom and independence as they follow their hearts to unexpected places. It’s the perfect read for fans of Fiona McIntosh, Nicole Alexander and Natasha Lester.
The novel follows the three Merriweather sisters, Frankie, Aggie and Ivy. Each of these sisters are very different women, yet all three are strong, passionate and deeply committed to the fight for women’s rights. I adored all three of these wonderful heroines, and through their story, O’Connor pays homage to these early Australian women who fought for, and won, their suffrage. O’Connor doesn’t shy away from difficult issues here either, exploring a number of important themes that still have relevance today, such as poverty, inequality and domestic violence.
Meticulously researched, thought-provoking and utterly compelling, Sisters of Freedom is yet another marvellous Australian historical from Mary-Anne O’Connor, cementing her place at the top of this genre. I highly recommend this to readers of rich, transportive historical fiction with empowering, female characters. I’m off to re-read O’Connor’s backlist, as I eagerly await her next novel.