So, as I've hung onto this story for so long, why publish it now? Because, at its roots, it is a story about emigration: a young woman who has to leave Ireland during the potato famine, in the hope of making a better life for herself elsewhere. She leaves with dreams, and believes that she will be welcomed. Nothing, of course (as this is fiction) works out like that.
But I've watched recent footage of refugees, with their meagre luggage and asking only for food and shelter, being turned away. I fictionalised such a journey, almost 200 years ago. But it feels heartbreakingly relevant to today.
And now, here she is. Here is the blurb, for those who haven't seen it:
It's 1848. And Sara, aged fourteen, must leave her family in the stinking potato fields of Ireland to seek a better life with her wealthy aunt in Liverpool. But her uncle has different ideas.
Will she find solace among the dockers? She finds love, but becomes embroiled in the unrest of the Irish men and women who live in squalor in the Liverpool slums. Yet her efforts to help them only enrage her uncle further.
Her escape takes her to the other side of the world. But there is no comfort in the dusty outback of Australia nor the gold fields of New Zealand. For she has left behind something more precious to her than life itself.
And here is the Amazon.co.uk link. (Just an ebook at the moment. I'm working on a print edition, but that probably won't be out until I'm home from Malawi.)