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.