Summary and book reviews of Morgan's Run by Colleen McCullough

Morgan's Run

A Novel

By Colleen McCullough

Morgan's Run
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2000,
    608 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2002,
    848 pages.

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Book Summary

In a novel of sweeping narrative power unequaled since her own beloved worldwide bestseller The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough returns to Australia -- this time with the story of its birth.

At the center of her new novel is Richard Morgan, son of a Bristol tavern-keeper, devoted husband and loving father, sober and hardworking craftsman. By the machinations of fate and the vagaries of the 18th-century English judicial system, he is consigned as a convict to the famous "First Fleet," which set sail, bearing, as an experiment in penology, 582 male and 193 female felons sentenced to transportation, in May of 1787 for the continent that Captain Cook had discovered only a few years earlier.

The word "epic" is overused, but no other word can do justice to one of the most grueling and significant voyages in human history or to the courage of the convicts whose sufferings were not ended but had only just begun when they set foot on Australian soil at Botany Bay on January 19th, 1788.

Of those convicts, Richard Morgan stood out, not only for his strength and his calm determination to let no man bully him, but also for his intelligence, his fair-mindedness, his common sense, and his willingness to help others. To these qualities must be added a certain innate dignity that hinted, even in the most terrible conditions, at a life marked by tragedies that would have broken most men.

In Richard Morgan, Colleen McCullough has created one of her most compelling characters. We see through Morgan's eyes the two worlds in which the story takes place: that of 18th-century Bristol, where Morgan was born and expected to live out his life, and that of a convicted felon sent to settle a hostile new world.

When the book begins, Richard Morgan is a contented man -- happily married, with a child he adores. Then, piece by piece, his idyll crumbles until he finds himself led into an ambiguous relationship with a beautiful young woman, whose dissolute protector seeks vengeance on Morgan to protect his own skin.

He endures the agonies of bereavement and financial loss, incarceration in prison and aboard the notorious "hulks," then the horrors of the journeys to Botany Bay and Norfolk Island, where he finds against all odds a new love and a new life.

Richard Morgan's story is true, but in making Morgan the central figure of her novel, Colleen McCullough has created a hero whom no reader will ever forget; she has written not only a great adventure and a powerful love story, but also a book that combines the elements of Tom Jones and Mutiny on the Bounty.

Morgan's Run is great fiction, full of drama, passion, history, love, and hatred, full-blooded and totally engrossing, a stunning work that is at once rich entertainment -- and a revelation.

Part One

From August of 1775 until October of 1784

"We are at war!" cried Mr. James Thiftlethwaite.

Every head save Richard Morgan's lifted and turned toward the door, where a bulky figure stood brandishing a sheet of flimsy. For a moment a pin might have been heard dropping, then a confused babble of exclamations erupted at every table in the tavern except for Richard Morgan's. Richard had paid the stirring announcement scant heed: what did war with the thirteen American colonies matter, compared to the fate of the child he held on his lap? Cousin James-the-druggist had inoculated the little fellow against the smallpox four days ago, and now Richard Morgan waited, agonized, to see if the inoculation would take.

"Come in, Jem, read it to us," said Dick Morgan, Mine Host and Richard's father, from behind his counter.

Though the noonday sun shone outside and light did diffuse through the bullioned panes of Crown glass in the windows of the Cooper's Arms, the large room...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
Library Journal

In her bloated and, sad to say, boring new book, McCullough (Caesar Let the Dice Fly) turns her usually fine historical eye to the Pacific Ocean and the founding of Australia in the late 18th century.

Publishers Weekly

McCullough's narrative skills are fully displayed in this intricately researched, passionate epic of 18th-century England's colonization of Australia ... The strength and resilience of her unforgettable hero makes this animated tale one of McCullough's best to date.

Kirkus Reviews

Quite a story, and painstakingly researched, with a grand narrative sweep that only occasionally bogs down in period trivia. .... Richard Morgan himself is almost too good to be true utterly blamelessand rather bland. But no matter. McCullough knows how to entertain, offering an erotic dalliance here and a tasteful flogging there. Bracing stuff.

Reader Reviews
c bourke

morgans run
I think this gives an insight into the existence of a criminal and how they were dealt with by English justice in the 18-19 century. I would love to know how much of Morgans run is history & how much fiction. I couldn't find a Richard Morgan ...   Read More

Rustrel

Morgan's run
Very interesting book. How hard was life in England and in Australia in the 18th century. How did they survive such conditions ? But 200 pages less would have made the book even better.

Editterry

how did I miss this?
I've been reading historical fiction and "ship books" since a few years after I could read. I went through all of the Patrick O'Brien books, and some of them twice. I've been a fan of Kenneth Roberts, Thomas Costain, MacKinlay Kantor, James...   Read More

Sandra Baker

Absorbing
Loved this book. I read it some years ago, and have just re purchased it to read again. I had heard back then that there was to be a sequel and have waited ever since for it, to no avail. Hope it happens. I really want to know how the saga ...   Read More

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