I’ve been meaning to review The Tin Ticket, by Deborah J. Swiss, for quite some time. Let me start by saying it’s a fascinating story about women convicted of petty crime in England in the 1830s who were then exiled to Tasmania. The British government was trying to supply women to its colony, so they stepped up sentencing exile for women who committed small crimes.
Like I said, it’s a really interesting story and Swiss did a great job on her research. Unfortunately, she seems to think she needs to dumb it down or dress it up or something, because the book is completely overwritten. For just one example, she spends a lot of time telling us how things smelled in the prison or on the boat or whatever. Now, here’s my thing: either tell me that Agnes McMillan wrote in her journal or Janet Houston told a grandchild that it smelled that way, or don’t put it in at all. The way it stands, I’m pretty sure you’re imagining how it smelled, as there’s not any citation for that assertion.
In other words, I don’t need my facts prettied up with a contemporary author’s imagination unless I’m reading historical fiction, in which case it’s fine to refer to a character time and again as a “grey-eyed girl.”
I stuck the book out till the end because I really admired the research and found the story interesting, despite the intrusion of such a heavy authorial presence. But she really could have used a better editor.