A Romance of Old Tasmania: Isabel Dick’s Wild Orchard

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper, not in proceeding


Isabel Dick’s historical romance novel Wild Orchard was published in 1946. There are very scarce references to Dick in the history of Tasmanian and Australian fiction and even less critical engagement with her work. Set almost two decades after the events of the 1820s, the atrocities of Van Diemen’s Land’s macabre past appear within the novel as echoes; the pages are haunted by the island’s history. This paper looks at how the genocide that occurred in nineteenth-century Tasmania is written into the romance plot of Dick’s novel becoming particularly pertinent in the light of the events of World War Two. In 1856, to coincide with the colony being granted responsible self-government, the island of Tasmania was officially granted its present day name; the former Van Diemen’s Land became a realm belonging to a grisly past. Here I look at the how the genre of historical fiction in Tasmania operates on the borderline between fact and fiction by incorporating components of the past that are validated by conventional text-book histories. These, I gesture, represent an alternative truth perhaps more authentic than that offered by so called objective history. I argue here that, in retelling the past, Dick is not only recreating a past but also reflecting a present. Having been to Tasmania myself to carry out archival work on Isabel Dick I am also interested in the notion that my reading of this novel provides yet another layer of history to consider in any analysis of the text.


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Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Languages and Literature
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2010
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes
EventConsuming the Past - University of Northumbria, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom
Duration: 2010 Jun 28 → …


ConferenceConsuming the Past
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityUniversity of Northumbria, Newcastle upon Tyne
Period2010/06/28 → …