Publication of The Low Road: Katharine Quarmby's Debut Novel

The Low Road is set in rural England, London and Australia in the early nineteenth century. Quarmby started investigating the story when she found historical documents about a Norfolk woman, Mary Tyrell, (the spelling of her name varies among documents) who was questioned about a suspected infanticide in her Norfolk hometown. Mary then took poison and died and was staked through the heart after death in 1813, in an archaic punishment called felo de se. Her older daughter, called Hannah in the novel, survived and Quarmby traced her to an orphanage in East London where she met another destitute, Annie Simpkins. The girls forged a friendship that deepened into love. Fearing separation they ran away with stolen goods. But they were caught, stood trial at the Old Bailey, and were eventually sentenced to transportation. The Low Road is based on a novelised version of this true story, and on other men and women who were exiled in the largest forced migration in British history - the transportation of some 162,000 British and Irish Convicts to mainland Australia and Tasmania between 1767 and 1868.

This novel is about uncovering lost histories: the stories of poor women from rural areas, the stories of convicts sent to penal colonies because of poverty and political activism, the stories of people who often left no records behind as a result of illiteracy and hardship and the largely overlooked history of same sex relationships between convict women. This is a three generational tale of women caught up in political times - from the fall-out of the Napoleonic wars and the poverty after, to the rise of the Swing Rioters and other political dissidents and beyond the seas to Australia.

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Author bio:

Katharine Quarmby has written non-fiction, short stories and books for children. Her non-fiction works include Scapegoat: Why We Are Failing Disabled People and No Place to Call Home: Inside The Real Lives Of Gypsies And Travellers. Katharine also works as an investigative journalist and editor, with particular interests in disability, the environment, race and ethnicity and the care system. The Low Road is her first novel.

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