Fiction featuring Care Experience

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The Dickens Boy

Thomas Keneally

2020

Thomas Keneally’s book, The Dickens Boy, is a fictionalised account of Edward Dickens (1852-1902), Charles Dickens’ youngest child.

At 16 Edward was sent off by his father to Australia, to “apply himself”.

When Edward, or Plorn as he was nicknamed by his father, arrives in Australia he has help from George Rusden, then clerk of the Victorian Parliament—who had earlier helped out Alfred Dickens (1845-1912) on his arrival in Australia—to get a position as a stockman with the Bonney brothers at Momba Station, NSW.

Edward then narrates his story of the first 2 years in Australia, riding long distances to see his brother, organising local cricket matches, mustering sheep, learning about Aboriginal culture. Kenneally presents Plorn as a delightful young man; he’s resourceful, principled, and kind. Being so far from his parents, Edward feels orphaned. But he's not and his older brother, Alfred, has been in Australia for a couple of years.

There are, however, 2 orphan characters who become friends with Edward: Tom Larkin and Maurice McArden.

Tom Larkin’s convict mother died in childbirth and his father, also a convict, died only a few years later.

Maurice McArden’s parents are artists who often leave their son with an uncle, Eustace Fremmel, while they’re off on jaunts through Europe. When the artists die, 13 year old Maurice stays on with Eustace, but is sent off to NSW at the age of 15 to live with another uncle, Amos Fremmel.