From Australian Gilling (The Sooterkin, 2000), a delightful second novel about two unusual young people who fall in love in New South Wales in the 19th century.
Romantics would say that certain people are destined to be together: Miles and Isabel certainly look like candidates. Not only were they born on the same night in 1856, they were born in the same theater—during a performance of Hamlet. Miles’s mother, Eliza McGinty, was a renowned Sydney actress who turned into a notorious one as the first woman in Australia ever to play the melancholy Dane—and while pregnant, at that. The critics clucked, of course, but the novelty brought all of New South Wales out to see the production—even Louisa Dowling, who argued with her banker husband Ernest that if the pregnant Eliza McGinty could perform Hamlet, then the pregnant Louisa Dowling could sit through it. She turned out to be wrong, however, and both she and Eliza went into labor long before the duel with Laertes. Miles grew up in the theater with his mother, of course, and went on stage himself as assistant to Zbigniew Wolunsky, the famed levitator. Isabel had a more sheltered upbringing, but at the age of seven she was nevertheless the first woman in Australia to go up in a hot-air balloon. She rebelled against the marriage her parents tried to arrange for her, however, and escaped by going to live with her uncle John Galbraith, a physician who attended Miles one day when he broke his arm in an accident. Miles stayed at the Galbraith home during his recuperation and met Isabel there. By then, he had become interested in creating a flying machine (inspired by his experiences as a levitator), and he and Isabel collaborated on the conquest of the heavens—and the earth.
Rich and amiable, told with a fresh wit and a good eye for history.