The Playmaker

A Novel

Thomas Keneally,

The Playmaker: A Novel
 
 
An English lieutenant is ordered to stage a play starring prisoners of the Australian penal colony he supervises in this phantasmagoric historical fiction masterwork from the author of Schindler’s List

In the penal colony of Sydney Cove, Australia, at the farthest reaches of the late-nineteenth-century British Empire, Lieutenant Ralph Clark has received a bizarre commission. In honor of the king’s birthday, Clark is charged with staging a production of the George Farquhar comedy The Recruiting Officer using as cast and production crew the highwaymen, whores, cutpurses, killers, and other assorted disreputables exiled there from the British Isles. Pining over the family he left behind, Clark must work miracles with only two printed scripts, a company of unstable and largely illiterate “actors,” and the dubious assistance of his colleagues. But the success—or failure—of the mammoth enterprise rests largely on the shoulders of lead actress Mary Brenham, the mesmerizing and enigmatic female convict to whom Clark finds himself strangely and dangerously attracted.
 
Based on the lieutenant’s real diaries, The Playmaker is a truly remarkable achievement. Atmospheric, dreamlike, and richly evoking time and place, featuring a monumental cast of magnificently drawn, unforgettable characters, it is a work of insight, imagination, and true genius by one of the most notable names in historical fiction.


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