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The Gallows Bird by Barbara Sumner


An illicit love, a deadly crime and a woman with ideas beyond her station. Meet Hannah ‘Birdie’ Bird, a laundry maid and the cast-out child of an aristocratic mother in 1830s London.


Longing for liberation, Birdie risks everything to change her circumstances. But she falls into love and crime, committing an audacious heist. When she is betrayed she joins other female convicts, transported to the other side of the world. During the long journey to the early Australian settlement she forms enduring bonds with her fellow prisoners. 


Can Birdie fight her way to freedom and will she beat the odds? The Gallows Bird is a story of friendship of the bold women who refuse to let history dictate the boundaries of their lives.


Babara Sumner began writing The Gallows Bird almost 20 years ago. She felt compelled to share the stories of convicts and their heroic survival. As she researched, she realised historical accounts of the time were mostly recorded by men and that life in the colony was from their perspective. She set out to remedy this with the gripping story of Birdie and her friends.


“I think about those 20,000 women shipped across the seas for the theft of an apple, a loaf of bread, a silk scarf… For them, Australia was beyond imagination. A mythical place without reference. Dispossessed of their families, of their history, of every internal and external landmark, they had but one choice: to make the world and themselves anew. This is the story of a young woman, who no matter what the odds, refused to give up,” says Barbara.


Barbara Sumner lives in Hawke’s Bay and this is her debut novel.


Reviewer: Andrea Molloy

Pantera Press

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