From Trincomalee to Portsea: The Diary of Eliza Blunt 1818 - 1822 transcribed and explained by Mary Hope Monnery

Mary Hope Monnery has done a fantastic job in bringing the old diary of one of her ancestors into the public domain. It must have been incredibly hard work to transcribe it but very rewarding at the same time. It has little or no punctuation and Ms. Monnery has published it deliberately as written and it is amazing that once you get used to the writing style the lack of punctuation doesn't affect your understanding of the text at all.

It is however quite difficult to read because of all the gaps in this record of the past; Eliza Blunt wasn't writing for us: she was writing for herself and possibly for her lover. Consequently you have to use your imagination at times to try and make sense of developments and here Ms. Monnery comes to our aid with lots of helpful annotations at the end of each chapter.

The diary contains a wealth of fascinating detail about daily life in the early nineteenth century. The range of Eliza's purchases and the prices she pays is remarkable; the amount of time it took to sail from Trincomalee to Portsea (5 months!) and the quantity of fresh livestock carried on the ship and butchered regularly truly amazing; the huge significance of washing day and the  hard work it entailed is back-breaking; and the relationship between Eliza and the Royal Navy on whom she was dependent for her pension is as relevant to-day as it was then.

Eliza actually records a visit to the theatre to see Edmund Keane in Richard III!

In addition the diary records a love story that is passionate and turbulent. Eliza was marrried when she went to Trincomalee (in present day Sri Lanka) but her husband died shortly after their arrival. While waiting to return to England with her family she meets and falls in love with another man and the feeling is mutual. She manages to sustain her love for many months without any contact at all with the man of her affections and  pours out her feelings in an extrordinary stream of consciousness style to her diary. You wonder if you're going to find out what happens:  and you do but I'm not going to tell you. A wonderful romance!

This is a most unusual book: fascinating, intriguing, packed with information. For anyone who enjoys family history it's a real gem.

You can sample and download "From Trincomalee to Portsea: The Diary of Eliza Blunt 1818 - 1822" at Amazon UK and Amazon USA.