‘Free Too’ by C Thiele

I am speaking at a 200 Year Celebration of Tasmania’s first chaplain, the Reverend Robert Knopwood, at Prince’s Square in Launceston at 2pm Saturday. I found Chris Thiele’s historical novel about early Tasmania and in which the Chaplain Knopwood makes an appearance or two provided excellent orientation. I gladly accepted Chris’ invitation to write the following PREFACE  to ‘FREE TOO’,

Chris Thiele spins a good yarn. ‘Free Too’ is no exception.

His trade mark qualities, passion and enthusiasm, surge through the characters, their conversations, their contexts. Life in all its rawness and splendor infuse the story line. Raw gallow scenes with gibbet, gore, guts (but little glory!) accompanied by soldiers, convicts, weeping family and Tasmania’s peerless Reverend ‘Bobby’ Knopwood. Now there’s a cast! And Chris does them proud. Oh, I forgot- the maggots, the anxious hangman with his “Will the drop be right?”, and the splendor of kindness, courage, resilience, forgiveness and love.

What are the ingredients of a good story? Human drama: ‘Normality’ shattered by evil, suffering, struggle, failure, injustice, redemption, forgiveness and healing, set amongst the frailty of poor decisions, ignorance and innocence, betrayal – and the courage and commitment of true, tough loving that sacrifices self-interest for the wellbeing of neighbour. Moreover, a skilled story teller authenticates his tale with the sounds, sights and smells of his chosen settings. Thus to the infamous Tasmanian penal colony Chris goes – and cleverly takes us, his readers.

“Free Too” is peppered with conversations to savour. By way of example: Ever wondered about sea sickness? New chum, “How long does it take to get used to it(sea sickness)?” Old sailor, “A week or two should do it, some a little more. Don’t look down, look at tha’ horizon, might ‘elp.” “Does that help looking at the horizon?” “Dunno, neva’ been sick.”

The characters captivate deep truths to ponder. At a moment of savage encounter and impending retribution, a voice is raised, “Not to kill takes a far greater strength of character than to do what anger requests.” Is such strength possible? How might it be gained?

Chris is passionate about Tasmania, history and the God of life. In ‘Free Too’ he has wonderfully woven these passions into high adventure. We need more of this.

A gritty read. True to life, both then and now. Worth the price? Yeah. Buy two!

See the website, ‘FREE TOO’ by Chris Thiele.


‘Free Too’ by C Thiele — 2 Comments

  1. Tonight I watched the Compass programme on the life of Dr Patricia Brennan and her work. As an Anglican I remeber her role as a leader in the Movement for the Ordination of Women but this programme brought home her lifelong work for the oppressed in our community and she saw the community as the world and not only Sydney or even Australia.
    Our church has many heroes and your remembrance of Robert Knopwood who has a reputation as both a Christian and a rascal had already caused me to lokk back over the Christians I have known and read about who have been seen as sinners and saints before Compass came on and hit me between the eyes.
    As I saw Dr Brennan speak I recalled the words of Henry II in Becket “Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?’. How many Bisops must have thought that of Dr Brennan with a suitable change of profession and the irony is that her home diocese remains stalwart in its rejection of the right of women to be ordained.
    Last night I listened to an address by the Palestinian doctor whose daughters were killed by an Israeli rocket during the invasion of Gaza. He was speaking at the Sydney Writers Festival. His message was peace not killing is the only answer. I don’t know if he is a Christian, I suspect not but his message was that of Christ, forgive and live. It reminded me of Justice Albie Sachs of the Constitutional Court of South Africa speaking of the Truth Commission in South Africa. He said he reminds himself daily “I am because you are”.
    Fr Knopwood was an extraordinary man in a very ordinary part of our history but he like Patricia Brennan and Albie Sachs and that extraordinary Palestinian doctor realised that we are all part of humanity and must respect the others and forgive rather than revile.
    Please forgive my vehemence but I started thinking about the inter connectedness of us all yesterday on a long drive and it all, camr together today. I must think some more.

  2. Dear Philip, please keep thinking on those long drives and gift your passion for Christ and his world to us for our encouragement and challenge. I read an article about the Palestinian doctor and he is a dedicated and marvellous peacemaker.

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