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Sowing a Life in New South Wales - an Editorial Review of "Wylde Oates"

"Wylde Oates" by Dell Brand cover

Book Blurb:

When Tom Wylde lands a job at the New Lanark Cotton Mill he is fourteen and has his life planned out. His sweetheart, Bella Oates, joins him there two years later and all is on track for their marriage. However their plans are shattered when Tom’s temper gets the better of him. Convicted of a serious crime, he is sentenced to transportation to New South Wales. Tom urges Bella to forget him and make a new life for herself in Scotland.

On reaching the colony, Tom is taken on by Simeon Lord to work in his textile factory at Botany and he meets Jane. Having not heard from Bella since leaving Scotland, he assumes she heeded his advice and remained behind. He decides to pursue Jane and they fall in love and marry but soon after a letter from Bella arrives telling him she is on her way. Married to one and betrothed to another, Tom’s life is once again catapulted into turmoil.

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Editorial Review:

"Wylde Oates" is a book written by Dell Brand, which brings to the forefront the story of

Tom Wylde and his trials in the struggle for survival and love in the difficult times of New

Lanark and later in the British colony of New South Wales.

The story begins in New Lanark in 1810, when young Tom Wylde applies for a job at Robert

Owen's cotton mill. With captivating dialogue and vivid descriptions, the author conveys

Tom's encounter with the mill owner and his journey towards a job that will help his family


Can I help you, lad?’ The boy raised his head. The man took in the slight build, the clean hands and face and the boy’s steel-grey eyes that gazed up at him from beneath a mop of dark curly hair and prominent forehead. His tall and wiry body was filling out nicely as he grew older.

These passages highlight Tom's courageous story.

As the story unfolds, Tom progresses within the factory, moving from one job to another and

encountering the love of his life, Bella. The love between the two is beautifully depicted in

the pages of the book, and Tom's struggle to maintain his job and secure a future together

with Bella is poignantly underscored. Another significant aspect of the book is Tom's

relationship with Donald Humphries, a coworker who makes his life difficult and challenges

him to the limits of his patience and morality.

However, Tom's life takes a dramatic turn when he becomes involved in an incident that

brings him to justice and leads to his sentencing to transportation to the colony of New South

Wales. The compelling descriptions of the sea journey and life in the colony highlight Tom's

struggle for survival and his efforts to maintain hope of being reunited with Bella.

The novel explores not only the characters' adventures in this unforgiving world but also their

complex interpersonal relationships. From close friendships to unrequited loves and painful

conflicts, the characters' lives unfold under the careful scrutiny of readers, offering a

profound insight into their souls and evolution over time.

One of the remarkable aspects of the book is the attention to historical detail and the authentic

atmosphere created by the author. Through vivid descriptions and realistic dialogues, readers

are transported through time and space, feeling the pulse of life in the burgeoning Australian


Bella finds happiness in her role as a teacher, comparing her current experience to her

previous, less satisfying and less secure jobs. However, even in the pleasant environment of

the school, her life is not without challenges. Mr. Wood's health issues and his indifference to

his own well-being bring her new difficulties, and Bella must adapt and find solutions despite

these obstacles.

Bella’s life as a schoolmistress was very pleasant. Never had she been happier in her work for it was more fulfilling than her job had been at the New Lanark cotton mill, was a much safer working environment than her job at the post office in Portsmouth and far more satisfying than her role as housemaid to the Goodmans. Mr. Wood was an amicable and fair employer and, though she missed seeing Fergus every day, she revelled in the freedom that her teaching duties with the younger pupils gave her. Nevertheless, as the year progressed, it brought with it unforeseen difficulties. Mr. Wood’s health continued to decline.

On the other hand, Tom establishes himself in Port Macquarie as a successful free man,

engaging in the timber industry. Over time, Tom earns the respect and trust of those around

him through hard work, wisdom, and integrity. He manages to carve out a path to a position

of influence and respect in the Port Macquarie community, aiding in the town's development

and contributing to the welfare of its inhabitants. Through perseverance and courage, Tom

becomes an example of success and determination to those around him, demonstrating that

even in the face of great adversity, it is possible to build a new life full of accomplishments.

His friendship with Stephen Partridge adds a new dimension to the story, highlighting the

solidarity and support among good people in a challenging environment. Through dialogues

and events, we witness his evolution as a free and prosperous man in his new life. Obtaining

a land grant and developing the farm on that property represent a significant moment in his

journey, providing him with the independence and security he needed.

Tom was making a success of his life as a free man in Port Macquarie. There seemed to be no limit to the amount of fine timber that could be cut from the upper reaches of the Hastings River and no end to the insatiable appetite of Sydney builders for it.

Readers witness the evolution of the characters and the community as a whole, within a

captivating historical framework. Details about everyday life in Port Macquarie, along with

the social and political changes taking place in the colony, add depth and authenticity to the


News had reached Sydney of a momentous happening on the other side of the world. An unheard-of innovation in the business of transporting goods had been successfully launched. The world’s first railway had opened with much fanfare and was said to herald a whole new era in industrialisation.

One of the highlights of the book is the depiction of the historic moment of the world's first

train, symbolizing significant changes and progress in a constantly evolving world. This

innovation brings hope and anticipation for the future, both for our characters and for readers


Additionally, the relationship between Edward and Abigail, as well as their endeavor to build

a stable and respectable future, adds a note of optimism and hope to the novel. The excerpt

from the text captures their plans for marriage and their desire to start a family in a modest

home, representing a significant shift in their lives.

On the other hand, Tom's story and his dilemma regarding his past and a possible reunion

with Bella add a note of tension and emotion to the novel. The main character's internal

conflict, struggling between his feelings for the past and the desire to move forward, is

presented with subtlety and depth.

In the book's conclusion, we witness moments of joy and fulfillment for the Wylde family,

who come together in a strong sense of unity and love. Despite the difficulties and challenges

encountered throughout their journey, the characters ultimately find happiness and peace in a

future full of hope and promise.

"Wylde Oates" is a captivating and emotional book, blending adventure, romance, and drama into a complex story of freedom, love, and destiny. By exploring a challenging landscape in the Australian colony in the nineteenth century, the author provides a vivid and authentic portrayal of life during that period. This book is a fascinating journey through the colonial past of Australia, where adventure, romance, and drama intertwine in a captivating and memorable story. It is a recommended read for all those passionate about historical fiction

and stories of courage and perseverance in the face of adversity.


“Wylde Oates” by Dell Brand receives four stars from The Historical Fiction Company


To have your historical novel editorially reviewed and/or enter the HFC Book of the Year contest, please visit 


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