This perfectly fine question is posed by captain Illiam Quillian Kewley at the beginning of English Passengers. The year is , and Kewley and his crew of Manx sailors only wished to transport some duty-free liquor from the Isle of Man - strategically located right in the middle of the Irish Sea - to mainland England, where the ruthless British Customs officials were waiting for them to do just that, so they could impose a fine on the more prosperous sailors. This is when the Reverend Geoffrey Wilson enters the scene: he is a vicar devoted to proving the accuracy of Scripture and through close reading grew convinced that the Garden of Eden is located not in Arabia, as it was previously thought, but in a small island called Tasmania, south of Australia. Accompanying him is Timothy Renshaw, a botanist, and Dr.
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Growing up, he was fascinated by other cultures, past and present, and as a student he travelled in Europe, South America, Central America and the Indian subcontinent. After graduating he knew he wanted to write but had little idea how to set about such a thing. He traveled to Tokyo, where he found work teaching English  and began writing a diary and short stories.
Later, on returning to England, his experience in Japan inspired his first novel, Whore Banquets. In he moved to Oxford, where he wrote two historical novels, Sweet Thames and English Passengers. He also developed an interest in languages, attempting to learn Spanish, Romanian, Albanian and Amharic Ethiopian. He and his wife now live in Rome with their two children. Sweet Thames is set in London in and tells the story of the trials of an enlightened drainage engineer whose wife vanishes during a cholera epidemic.
It won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. English Passengers tells the story of a religious-scientific expedition that seeks to find the Garden of Eden in Tasmania, a land whose aboriginal culture had been experiencing brutal destruction at the hands of British settlers and convicts. The novel is told by more than 20 voices. Interviewed in , Kneale said that J.
They examine the lives of people as they struggled to survive and do the right thing, sometimes managing neither. One of the stories, "Powder", about a failed lawyer whose life changes when he chances upon a stash of cocaine and a mobile phone, was made into the French feature film, Une Pure Affaire.
In a writing career spanning more than two decades, Kneale has produced several other books and won a clutch of prizes, though most critics would agree that to date English Passengers remains his finest work. His first novel was Whore Banquets , later reissued as Mr Foreigner It tells the story of a young Englishman, Daniel Thayne, who becomes involved with an enigmatic divorcee while teaching in Japan. When she declares she is pregnant, her powerful family decide that Daniel will marry her.