Mrs Jewell and the Wreck of the General Grant – Cristina Sanders


In 1866 a ship bound for London from Melbourne crashed into the Auckland Islands and sunk, taking with it many lives and an undetermined amount of gold, direct from the goldfields of Australia.

There were only 15 survivors. These 14 men and one women made it ashore and began the long, arduous task of staying alive.

Survival records come mainly from three of the men. What Sanders has done here is not only record this tragic event for the history books, but given a voice to Mary-Ann Jewell, of whom little is known, with a fictional imagining of her time on the Auckland Isles.

We were nearly out of the cave when the wave hit and bounced off the end wall. We gripped on. Thirty, perhaps forty people cowered behind us in the long boat. The wave lifted and swamped them. Capsized, there were screams and frenzy and bodies falling. I saw them drown.

● I particularly enjoy fictional retellings of true events, especially NZ stories as it feels important to have these stories widely known and historically documented. Sanders has done a fine job with this novel. The historical facts of the wreck are accurate and surely she researched well to determine just how these 15 people could attempt survival in such barren and bitter conditions. The characterisation of Mrs Jewell suits the story perfectly, for it is natural to wonder how one woman survived this ordeal with 14 men, what her roles would have been, how she was treated and what her struggles where in comparison to the men. On top of a beautiful balance to those considerations, Sanders has written a rip-roaring read. I read it over one night/morning, my only break about 1am when my eyes couldn’t stay open any longer. Highly recommend this. – Rachel

● I felt quite desperate while reading Mrs Jewell and the Wreck of the General Grant. My first driving question was whether this was based on a true story or was it fictional, and the second was WILL THEY MAKE IT?! This was another fantastic story written from a female perspective and I so appreciate the authors who are creatively contributing and providing a voice for women where history books seem to have otherwise passed them over. A big thank you to Cristina Sanders for taking this reader along on such an absolutely extraordinary journey. – Suzy


Published 2022
The Cuba Press
321 pages

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