A new release from Tea Cooper
The Naturalist’s Daughter
Read an excerpt below
Two women, a century apart, are drawn into a mystery surrounding the biggest scientific controversy of the nineteenth century, the classification of the platypus.
1808 Agnes Banks, NSW
Rose Winton wants nothing more than to work with her father, eminent naturalist Charles Winton, on his groundbreaking study of the platypus. Not only does she love him with all her heart, but the discoveries they have made could turn the scientific world on its head. When Charles is unable to make the long sea journey to present his findings to the prestigious Royal Society in England, Rose must venture forth in his stead. What she discovers there will change the lives of future generations.
1908 Sydney, NSW
Tamsin Alleyn has been given a mission: travel to the Hunter Valley and retrieve an old sketchbook of debateable value, gifted to the Mitchell Library by a recluse. But when she gets there, she finds there is more to the book than meets the eye, and more than one interested party. Shaw Everdene, a young antiquarian bookseller and lawyer, seems to have his own agenda when it comes to the book but Tamsin decides to work with him to try and discover the book’s true provenance. The deeper they delve, the more intricate the mystery becomes.
As the lives of two women a century apart converge, discoveries rise up from the past and reach into the future, with irrevocable consequences…
Excerpt from The Naturalist’s Daughter by Tea Cooper
Agnes Banks, New South Wales, 1808
Rose loved Pa’s dusty workroom filled to overflowing with notebooks and samples, paints and charcoals. A treasure chest of strange and wonderful objects. A charred boomerang; the tall, tall seed head from the shaggy grass tree; a huge oh-don’t-touch emu’s egg painted with careful patterns, more tiny dots than even she could count. Collected heads of banksia, their knotted faces leering; the beautiful curling tail feather of a bulln-bulln; and in the centre of the worn table her most favourite of all—the mallangong. Once it lived and breathed until Bunji’s Pa speared it out in the billabong. Now it sat … pre-ser-ved for all eternity— that’s what Pa said. Pre-ser-ved. She ran her hand over the dark brown fur and touched its funny little beak.
Pa rose from the chair, his brown face wrinkling as he smiled his special smile. ‘Shall we go down to the river, my heart?’
A trickle of excitement ran through her—she’d sat quietly waiting all afternoon for him to say those very words. ‘Yes please, Pa.’
‘Put on your boots before you tell your mother we are off.’
She rammed her feet into her clodhoppers, leaving the long laces trailing, and hoisted her knapsack carefully onto her back. Pa’s supplies were precious. How she loved the wooden box with its tiny blocks of paint and brushes wrapped in fine linen. Pa promised she’d have her own paintbox when she was bigger, all her very own. Now she shared his and she had to be careful, so very careful not to break anything.
The box came from London a long time ago with Pa on the big ship when the colony was blackfellas’ country. Now there were people everywhere—mostly convicts with their clattering, clanging chains and long sad faces.
Some days Mam was sad too. She’d stare down the river and sigh as though she’d been waiting a long, long time and every time Pa went to Sydney Town she asked him for a letter. When he shook his head, tears came to her eyes. One day she’d write her a letter so Pa could bring it back; maybe then Mam would smile.
‘Mam, where are you? We’re going to the river to see the mallangong.’
Mam turned from her seat on the ground, her fingers dirty from scrabbling in the garden where she grew her medicine— herbs that made people well, helped birth their babies, fixed their fevers and healed their cuts and bruises. That made Mam happy but the letter sadness never left her eyes no matter how hard Rose tried to be a good girl.
‘Tell your pa not to be late for tea. And don’t forget to keep your hat and boots on. The sun’s still strong.’
‘We can’t come home too soon because the mallangong don’t play until the sun goes down.’
‘You and your mallangong. I’m frightened one day I might lose you. You’ll swim away and not come back to me, go and live with them in Yellow-Mundee’s lagoon.’
She’d never do that, never leave Pa. Why would she do a thing like that?
‘Off you go now. That’s your pa calling; he doesn’t like to be kept waiting.’
Pa was always saying he had two precious treasures brought to him by the piskies. That made Mam smile. A sad faraway smile. She leant over and brushed her lips against her mother’s smooth cheek, wrinkling her nose when the curl of hair, black as black, tickled her face. ‘Bye Mam.’