"Set against the backdrop of the Australian migrant experience, 'The Worst Country in the World' is not only a great read but a thought-provoking one too, especially for those with links to Australia, which reinvented itself from a convict colony to one of the 'luckiest' countries in the world." Karen Clare, Family Tree magazine.
In 1801 Mary Pitt, a 53-year-old widow and mother of five, left her home in Fiddleford in Dorset to sail across the world to live in a penal colony in a country that was then considered by its recent arrivals to be the worst country in the world. Colonial New South Wales was then barely fourteen years old, an experiment that looked as if it was going to fail. What on earth made her go there?
The Worst Country in the World is a story about the early days of colonial Australia as seen through the eyes of Mary and her family of free settlers. It tells how the country that was originally considered not fit to be lived in struggled to become the 'lucky' country it is now. It is a personal story told by Mary's descendant, an Englishwoman who once lived in Australia and has a deep affection for it, whose own Australian mother reversed the wheel and migrated back to England to reinvent herself as the archetypal Englishwoman. It is about struggle and snobbery, reinvention and revaluation.
'This wonderful 'true story of an Australian pioneer family' ... [is] also about the lives of two later generations of women; the author's mother, who migrated to England from her native Australia aged 23, and Patsy herself, who emigrated back down under at exactly the same age . . . . . . 'part family history, part memoir and part novel', the author re-imagines real characters and events beyond the facts to put 'flesh on the bones' of her story. But switching between the tale of her ancestral searches in England and Australia and Mary's part-fictionalised story is a conceit that works well ... Set against the backdrop of the Australian migrant experience, this is not only a great read but a thought-provoking one too, especially for those with links to Australia, which reinvented itself from a convict colony to one of the 'luckiest' countries in the world.' Family Tree magazine 'A compelling story of a woman's search for her roots . . . there is a large amount of archival evidence extant both in Australia and the UK and she has made the most of all these sources, giving excellent notes and further information as well . . . I wanted to find out what happened to these people. I was interested to find out what had happened to the land and houses they had worked and built. It made me aware of my own feeling of 'rootlessness' as I have very little knowledge about the past of my own family.' Historical Novel Society. 'This book relates the author's family history over five generations, using a variety of techniques, each of which alone would pay rich dividends for students to emulate.... It provides a rich scenario for Patsy's imagination, building on meticulous research in archives, to present us with a sensitive novel about Australia's beginnings interspersed with reflections relating to the present day.' Dorset Family History Society. 'The book primarily covers twenty years or so of the history of Mary and her children through one or more anecdotes about each person. These are often linked to the history of the colony at the time, so the Rum Rebellion gets a mention, as do Irish convicts linked to the 1798 uprising. . . . We can see her first steps into family history research through chats with her elderly aunt, her research in England (where she lives), her delight when some original documents are found in the NSW State Library, and the family reunion in Australia in 2009. She also offers her thoughts on issues such as the 'history wars' and Aboriginal reconciliation.' Descent magazine (Society of Australian Genealogists)