The Blurb (From Goodreads):
In the midst of the French Revolution, in 1791, unwed mother Marie-Louise Girardin takes one last look at her baby son before thrusting him into the arms of her friend, the revolutionary Olympe de Gouges. She must escape, and only the most daring plan will bring her both the anonymity she needs and the independence to return one day for her son.
Marie-Louise disguises herself as a man and joins a voyage of exploration employed as a steward on the Recherche, one of two ships commissioned to journey to the Great Southern Ocean to find the missing explorer La Perouse.
Protecting her identity throughout, Marie-Louise forms friendships among the eccentric naturalists. But tensions rise between the royalist officers and the revolutionaries, and Marie-Louise’s position becomes precarious when she discovers someone on board knows the secrets of her past. When the expedition docks in Java, chaos erupts as they learn of King Louis XVI’s execution and are imprisoned by the Dutch. Marie-Louise seems certain to be unmasked. Will she ever return to France and be reunited with her child?
Inspired by a true story, Into the World is a compelling novel of the amazing life of Marie-Louise Girardin battling perilous seas, her own self-doubt, and finding unforeseen loves on a journey to reclaim her child.
Into the World by Stephanie Parkyn is a richly imagined tale inspired by the true story of Marie-Louise Victoire Girardin who fled France in the early days of the Revolution and disguised herself as a man, spending the next few years working as a steward on a French tall ship. She sailed from France to Van Dieman’s Land, and thence on to New Caledonia. Although many of her ship-mates suspected she was really a woman, Marie-Louise Girardin defended her masquerade doggedly, even fighting a duel to defend her honour. It’s an extraordinary and little-known story, and Stephanie Parkyn does a brilliant job of bringing it to life. Marie-Louise’s grief at giving up her illegitimate child, her fear of her being unmasked, her confusion and longing are all made real and believable.
I was particularly interested in this book because it is set at the same time as my novel The Blue Rose (i.e. the French Revolution), and is mainly set on board a ship sailing from Europe to the other side of the world (I have quite a few scenes set on a sailing ship too!) Our heroes even stop at a few of the same ports. It’s always interesting to see how another author deals with similar material as oneself.
I really enjoyed Into the World and will be interested to see what Stephanie Parkyn does next.
Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think.
Fascinated by the French Revolution? Check out my review of The Lost King of France by Deborah Cadbury: