Thomas Keneally

The Commonwealth of Thieves
  • The Commonwealth of Thieves

  • The story of modern Australia begins in eighteenth-century Britain, where people were hanged for petty offences but crime was rife, and the gaols were bursting. From this situation was born the Sydney experiment, with criminals perceived to be damaging British society transported to Sydney, an 'open air prison with walls 14,000 miles thick'.

    Eleven ships were dispatched in 1781, and arrived in Australia after eight hellish months at sea. Tom Keneally describes the first four years of the 'thief colony' and how, despite the escapes, the floggings, the murders and the rebellions, it survived against the odds to create a culture which would never have been tolerated in its homeland but which, in Australia, became part of the identity of a new and audacious nation.

    By the author of Schindler's Ark, since made into the internationally acclaimed film, Schindler's List.

Thomas Keneally won the Booker Prize in 1982 with Schindler's Ark, since made into the internationally acclaimed film Schindler's List by Steven Speilberg. His works of non-fiction include The Place Where Souls Are Born, about the American South West, his memoir Homebush Boy, and, most recently, The Commonwealth of Thieves. His twenty-three works of fiction include The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Gossip from the Forest and Confederates, each of which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Thomas Keneally is married with two daughters and lives most of the year in Sydney.


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