The Blurb (from Goodreads):
In the year 1841, on the eve of her departure from London, Bridie’s mother demands she forget her dead father and prepare for a sensible adult life in Port Phillip. Desperate to save her childhood, fifteen-year-old Bridie is determined to smuggle a notebook filled with her father’s fairy tales to the far side of the world.
When Rhys Bevan, a soft-voiced young storyteller and fellow traveller realises Bridie is hiding something, a magical friendship is born. But Rhys has his own secrets and the words written in Bridie’s notebook carry a dark double meaning.
As they inch towards their destination, Rhys’s past returns to haunt him. Bridie grapples with the implications of her dad’s final message. The pair take refuge in fairy tales, little expecting the trouble it will cause.
This beautiful and delicate tale follows the 1841 journey to Australia of fifteen-year-old Bridie Stewart, her pregnant mother Mary and her stepfather Alf. Mary thinks it is time Bridie cast away childish things and prepare herself for a new life in Port Phillip, but Bridget is still mourning the death of her father and is resentful of her mother’s new husband. Against her mother’s wishes, Bridie packs a notebook filled with her father’s fairy tales.
Also on board the boat are the Welsh musician and storyteller, Rhys Bevan and his wife Siân who is also with child. Rhys and Bridie become friends, and his stories become a real comfort to her. The journey is hard; there is illness, and personality clashes, and class divisions, and a doctor more interested in pursuing an affair with the nurse than in caring for the passengers. Rhys has his own demons to battle, and tragedy strikes as the ship comes ever close to Australia.
Woven through the story are some old Welsh fairy tales, and I particularly loved this aspect of the novel.