Carmen Callil

Oh Happy Day
  • Oh Happy Day

  • 'A triumphant family memoir' Hallie Rubenhold
    'Powerfully told...an impressive work' The Times
    'Gives a voice to the voiceless' Australian Book Review

    In this remarkable book, Carmen Callil discovers the story of her British ancestors, beginning with her great-great grandmother Sary Lacey, born in 1808, an impoverished stocking frame worker. Through detailed research, we follow Sary from slum to tenement and from pregnancy to pregnancy. We also meet George Conquest, a canal worker and the father of one of Sary's children. George was sentenced - for a minor theft - to seven years' transportation to Australia, where he faced the extraordinary brutality of convict life.

    But for George, as for so many disenfranchised British people like him, Australia turned out to be his Happy Day. He survived, prospered and eventually returned to England, where he met Sary again, after nearly thirty years. He brought her out to Australia, and they were never parted again.

    A miracle of research and fuelled by righteous anger, Oh Happy Day is a story of Empire, migration and the inequality and injustice of nineteenth-century England.

    'A remarkable tale...drawing chilling parallels to the inequalities of our times' Observer

Carmen Callil was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia, but has spent most of her career in the United Kingdom. She founded Virago Press in 1973 and in 1982 became Managing Director of Chatto & Windus, also remaining Chair of Virago until 1995, when she retired from both publishing houses. She co-edited, with Colm Tóibín, The Modern Library: The 200 Best Novels in English since 1950, and her first book, Bad Faith: A Forgotten History of Family and Fatherland, was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Award.

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