Devotion by Hannah Kent

Prussia, 1836: a small village of Old Lutherans is forced to practice their religion in secret or face persecution. Deliverance comes with the opportunity for settling in the new colony of South Australia, where they can practice without fear.

One member of this village is Hanne, a strong-willed 15-year-old girl who is more comfortable exploring the wilderness around her home than tending to the domestic world where she is expected to conform to the social norms for women at this time. Hanne is an outsider in her conservative village and struggles to create bonds of friendship with any of the local girls. This changes when Thea moves to the village. Finally, Hanne has met a kindred spirit. Their bond only grows stronger on the devastating journey from Europe to South Australia – a bond that proves impossible to break.

The story is told in three parts: Before, which takes place in Prussia; After, which occurs on the sea voyage; and Now, which takes place in South Australia. Like Hannah Kent’s previous novels, this one draws on historical archives; the persecution, voyage and settlement of the Old Lutherans are historically accurate, and Kent herself is descended from German- speaking immigrants who came to South Australia in the mid-19th century. The completely original aspect of this tale is the story of Hanne and Thea. Theirs is a story of love and a celebration of friendship. It is also a story with an unbelievable (and unbelievably thrilling) twist that I am loath to reveal here.

Devotion cements Kent’s status as one of the most exciting Australian writers working today (she is certainly already a staff favourite here at Readings). I have eagerly devoured everything she has ever written and am already waiting in eager anticipation for what comes next. A true must-read.

Tristen Brudy is a bookseller at Readings Carlton.

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Hannah Kent

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